Will depend on outcome of Feb 20 tripartite talks
The four-day strike by bank employees’ unions, scheduled to begin on February 25, in support of their demand for wage hike, will be the longest at the all-India level in the country’s banking history. And, together with a Sunday that follows the four-day strike, the entire banking sector, and hence most of the financial services industry, will be nearly shut for five days.
The strike, of course, will depend on the outcome of the tri-partite negotiations called by the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) to be held on February 20 in New Delhi. However, the employees’ unions are not enamoured of the CLC-initiated negotiations between the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) and the Indian Banks Association.
“We do not expect a positive outcome at the February 20 talks,” MV Murali, convenor of the nine-union UFBU, told BusinessLine.
He added that the UFBU had twice postponed the proposed four-day strike by assuring the IBA negotiating team that substantial increase would be made in their offer. But UFBU, which had, ‘as a gesture of goodwill,’ put off of the strike, had been badly let down, Murali said. “This time if we do not get a concrete and substantial offer from the IBA side, all the unions in the banking industry are going on the long strike,” he said.
RBI and NABARD unions will be on strike on February 26, while the unions of Gramin Banks will join the four-day strike.
Murali said that over the past two years, several rounds of negotiations on arriving at a five-year wage agreement had been held, but the IBA had so far made only a 13 per cent increase in the monthly wages. Nearly one million bank employees, both in the public and private sectors, had stayed cool this long awaiting a fair agreement. But, the IBA had let them down, Murali alleged.
The four-day strike scheduled for last month had been put off on the assurance of a substantial hike in the offer, and hence a possible successful end to the wage negotiations process, but the IBA had only offered to raise the offer from 12.5 per cent to 13 per cent. The entire bank staff had felt let down. Murali noted that the unions had initially asked for a 25 per cent wage increase, but had come down to 19.5 per cent.
He said the four-day strike would be followed by an indefinite all-India strike starting from March 16.