CHENNAI: It's a Diwali bonanza for employees of public sector banks as their accounts are being credited with handsome part wage arrears even before a final agreement on their wage revision is reached between the employee unions and the management.
And this is happening for the first time in India's banking history. Public sector bank employees have been waiting for a wage revision from November 2017.
"The employees can opt-out or take the part arrear payments. If they take the part arrear, the amount credited will not be less than Rs 50,000 and may exceed Rs 1,00,000," an employee of a government bank told IANS preferring anonymity.
Despite about 30 rounds of talks between the United Forum for Bank Unions (UFBU) and the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) since 2017, a wage agreement is not in sight.
"It is really interesting to see the speed at which the bank managements are working towards payment of the part wage arrears, while the wage revision talks are moving at a snail's pace," he added.
On October 1, the IBA had written to all the heads of government banks and private banks, that are part of bipartite settlement, directing them to pay an ad hoc amount of the pending wage settlement equivalent to a month's salary (Basic Pay + Dearness Allowance) and adjust it later when the final wage arrears are paid after the unions reach a settlement.
Curiously, the government had in January 2016 told Chief Executives of all public sector banks to initiate the wage revision talks and conclude them before 1.11.2017.
"The government has stolen the thunder of the unions by paying part wage arrears. Normally, the wage arrears are paid to the employees after the wage agreement is signed between the unions and the management," he said.
"This time around, the management has offered a wage revision of 12 per cent. Since the final percentage would not go below that, the banks have decided to calculate the wage arrears and pay the employees," the banker said.
Further, the banks have made provisions for wage revision in their accounts and it will therefore not make any major impact.
Upset at the turn of events, the UFBU wrote a letter to the IBA on October 3 saying: "The decision to pay the ad hoc amount is not just unfair, unilateral and arbitrary, but it is also a deliberate attempt to undermine the role of unions and their right of collective bargaining."
"Though the negotiations commenced in May 2017, it was only in May 2018, a full year later that the IBA made its first offer of 12 per cent. Thus one full year of negotiations went without any offer from the IBA. This delay is solely because of the IBA and not the Unions," the UFBU told IBA.
The UFBU in its letter added: "Suffice it to say that this goodwill gesture was absent in payment of overtime wages/compensation to employees and officers when they bore the brunt of demonetisation and suffered during the implementation of Jan Dhan Yojana. Many Bank managements are still defaulters on this.
"We have been insisting on an expedited settlement - even now we are ready to conclude a reasonable and satisfactory settlement by mutual discussion," C.H.Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) told IANS.
He said the unions are aware that the economy is not doing well and the banks are facing lot of challenges. The banks should be focusing on their business and conclude the wage settlement at the earliest.
"The last time the hike was 15 per cent. So far, the IBA has offered 12 per cent. They should improve their offer and conclude at a satisfactory level," he added.
Meanwhile, employees of government-owned insurance companies -- life and general -- are complaining that they not as fortunate as their counterparts in public sector bank.
"In the banking sector, an upward revision of 12 per cent has been made. But no such offer has been made to the unions in the general insurance sector," said K. Govindan, General Secretary, General Insurance Employees All India Association (GIEAIA).