Stand-off between Fairfax-promoted CSB Bank and employees over wage revision to escalate

CSB Bank employees have threatened to strike work on December 30, 31 and January 1, which will be followed up by an indefinite strike in March next year.

Published: 30th October 2021 12:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th October 2021 12:59 AM   |  A+A-

CSB Bank Staff Association hold a demo strike in front of the bank's head office

CSB Bank Staff Association hold a demo strike in front of the bank's head office. (Photo| Twitter/ @TmbeuU)

Express News Service

KOCHI: The stand-off between the employees and the management of Thrissur-based CSB Bank (formerly Catholic Syrian Bank) over non-implementation of the wage revision and the demand to convert its 3500-odd contract employees as its permanent staff is likely to escalate with both the parties in no mood to ease their positions.

While the CSB Bank is adamant in going ahead with its revamp of the 100-year-old bank, the trade unions allege that the entire approach of the bank after Canada-based Fairfax bought a majority stake in the private bank in 2018 was against the well-being of the employees and small depositors.

CSB Bank employees have threatened to strike work on December 30, 31 and January 1, which will be followed up by an indefinite strike in March next year, if the bank's management denies the pay revision, effective from 2017, to its employees.

On March 26 this year, the CSB Bank saw a one-day strike where all the bank unions participated which was followed by another three-day strike on September 29, 30 and October 1. Later on October 22, all the banks in Kerala observed a strike in support of the CSB Bank employees.

"Even HDFC Bank, a new private sector bank, has agreed to pay salaries in line with the national level agreement, but CSB Bank's lame excuse is that no industry-based contracts apply to them," said T Narendran, president of Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), Kerala.

He said CSB Bank has reduced the number of permanent employees to 1,353 from 3,200 through various steps including a reduction in the retirement age from 60 to 58 and VRS. "Almost all the steps taken by the new management are aimed against the bank's employees. The bank has not hired a single permanent employee in the last five years while it has recruited 3,500 employees on a contract basis without any transparency," he said.

Narendran said strict instructions have gone out to the employees to insist Rs 10,000 as the first deposit to open a saving bank account at the bank. "As a matter of fact, employees are told not to entertain saving bank accounts which have less than Rs 30,000 deposit," he said.

When contacted, a CSB Bank spokesman said: "We have had discussions with the employees and trade unions and the talks are still on. Bank would like to state that the employees are an invaluable stakeholder group and the backbone of the Bank. We value the contribution of our employees and respect all their efforts for the Bank over the years."

A senior CSB Bank management official said bank employees are behaving like they are living in a past era. "There is stiff competition in the banking sector. Our bank has over 70 branches in the Thrissur district alone. It is a fact that we don't need that many branches in Thrissur. A large number of the employees belong to the district and hence they don't want to move out of the area. We can't run a bank if the employees adopt this attitude," the executive said.

BEFI's Narendran said the RBI is trying an experiment with CSB Bank in terms of promoter ownership. As per the banking rules, the promoters' stake in a private bank is set at 15 percent while for non-promoter shareholding there is a uniform cap of 10 percent. "But in the case of CSB Bank, RBI has allowed Fairfax, a foreign company, to buy 51 percent stake," he said.

He said agricultural loans, small loans and education loans have completely disappeared from CSB Bank's lending activities. "Housing loans have fallen from Rs 344 crore four years ago to Rs 245 crore in 2021. Similarly, the education loans declined from Rs 177 crore to Rs 78 crore in the same period," Narendran said.


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