Subsequent to the third round of Negotiating Committee Meeting held on 29th September 2023, meetings of the working groups on
1. Special Pay Posts and duties,
2. Revised DA formula,
3. Disciplinary Action & Procedures for workmen,
4. Officers’ Disciplinary Procedure Conduct Rules and
5. Leave and LFC rules
were held on 11th, 12th, 13th and 26th October 2023. A meeting of Core Committee was also held on 25th October 2023. The fourth round of the Negotiating Committee Meeting was held on 27th October 2023. Various demands submitted in the charter of demands were discussed in these meetings. Truly the negotiations are progressing well at a good pace unprecedentedly. However, a few issues as narrated below have come to the fore which need to be addressed.
Discrimination in workmen subcommittees
In the case of officers all the three organizations participating in the negotiations namely AIBOC, INBOC, NOBO take part in all the meetings of the working groups which deal with the service conditions like leave, disciplinary action etc. Whereas in the case of workmen only two Unions namely AIBEA and NCBE participate in the meetings of the working groups leavingout the other three other Unions namely BEFI, INBEF & NOBW. This discrimination has been pointed out by BEFI in its communication to the UFBU (United Forum of Bank Unions) on 4th October 2023. “We appreciate inclusion of all 3 Officers Associations. In the Sub Committee related with Dearness Allowance which is a common issue, 3 representatives from Officers Associations and Workmen Unions have been included. Pitifully, in related to the matters of Workmen, we observed that representatives only 2 Workmen Unions, viz. AIBEA and NCBE, out of 5 have been included in the Sub Committees. This is absolutely ridiculous and illogical” stated BEFI in the said communication.
It is learnt that all the issues that have been discussed in the Sub-Committee meetings would be placed before the UFBU meeting for approval before entering into any formal understanding with the IBA (Indian Banks Association).
Why should Union raise Management’s demand?
One more issue that is causing concern is that one of the Workmen Unions namely AIBEA in its Central Committee Meeting has decided as: “The CC approved the broad approach to be taken in the negotiations for an early and adequate wage revision without compromising on any of the fundamental service conditions and that efforts should be made to make the workmen cadre more and more utility oriented with suitable enhancement of the duties and responsibilities” (emphasis added). So far, we have seen that the Management only used to place a counter-demand seeking enhancement of duties and responsibilities of workmen cadre. But it is strange that a workman union is placing such a demand.
The same CC of AIBEA observed: “In many branches employees are unable to complete their daily routine work within the office hours and are compelled to sit late. This is resulting in work-related stress and employees find it difficult to cope up with the same”. AIBEA union has given agitation call including strike actions to redress this issue. Our question is when the employees are already unable to complete their daily routine within office hours and resultantly undergoing work-related stress, how would they manage with enhanced duties and responsibilities? Further, it is strange that only two Workmen Unions, namely AIBEA and NCBE take part in the meetings of Working Groups that discuss Special Pay Posts and Duties.
Why does the UFBU raise the demand for change of base year to 2016?
The UFBU Circular No. UFBU/2023/16 dated 28-10-2023 states that “We had demanded that in the new Settlement, after such merger of DA, the DA scheme should be switched from 1960=100 Index Series to 2016=100 Index Series. The Working Group has agreed to recommend the same to the Negotiating Committee where final decision would be taken”. Here we need to be cautious. Already, Central Trade Unions have registered their protest over the change of base year from 2001 to 2016 on many grounds. CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) has raised serious concern over this stating “The Labour Bureau deliberately ignored the very fact that even in the midst of economic slowdown, the prices of essential items, food items in particular always remain on the rise and did not hesitate to arbitrarily as well as drastically reduce the weight assigned to food items in the standard consumption basket from 46.2% to 39% for the purpose of computation of consumer price index”. Further it has said “Manipulation by the Govt with a dubious intent does not end here. It is also done in the linking factor for converting the numbers of 2016 to 2001 series equivalent to suppress the impact of actual price rise. Two previous changes of base year witnessed a higher linking factor of 4.93 (1960 to 1982 -22 years gap) and 4.63 (1982 to 2001—19 years gap); now a 16 years gap (2001 to 2016) entailed a linking factor of only 2.88”.
From the above it is obvious that the Union Government has changed the weightage in the basket for computation with an intent to suppress the real increase in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) commensurate with the price rise and secondly the conversion factor from the base year 2001 to 2016 is grossly less compared to those of the previous times. Presently only the CPI with the base year of 2016 is published with the conversion factor of 2.88. The issues raised by the Central Trade Unions need to be addressed. At this juncture, why should UFBU demand change of base year to 2016? There is also a talk that it would entail some cost. If so, one fails to understand what benefit would accrue to the bank employees and officers by accepting the change of base year to 2016 for some cost. It is for the leaders in the Negotiating Committee to ponder over and clarify this to the general bank employees and officers.