Talks between bank unions and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) — who met in the presence of chief labour commissioner P P Mitra on Friday — failed, but the unions will meet IBA again on Monday to further negotiate an increase in wages. Should Monday’s negotiations fail, a four-day strike by bank employees, starting February 25 could be a possibility.
Vishwas Utagi, convenor, Maharashtra, for the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) said the unions will not lower their demand for a 19.5% hike in wages but are ready to call off the strike if assured of the hike.
“We have indicated to the IBA that if it accepts our demands, we will immediately cancel the strike,” Utagi said. A senior IBA official said the union’s demands must to be reasonable.
“We are ready to negotiate but the unions are not willing to soften their stance.”
Representatives of All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) and the All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) had met finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday seeking his intervention in the matter.
Negotiations between the two that took place earlier this month had been inconclusive even after the IBA agreed to a hike of 13% against the demand for a 19.5% increase.
Subsequently, bank unions decided to first go on a four-day strike and, if that failed to change the situation, call an indefinite strike from March 16. Ten lakh bank employees are expected to participate in the strike.
Apart from the wage revision, bank unions have also demanded a reduction in the number of working days of employees to five days from six days as well as regulated working hours. Wages in the banking sector are governed by industry-level bipartite settlements signed between the IBA and unions.
This round of wage negotiations that began in November 2012, have seen employees attend strikes several times with the IBA beginning the bargain at 5% and the unions at 25%. The IBA gradually increased it to 12% while, the unions demanded 23%. The last wage hike settlement took place in 2010, when salaries were hiked by 17.5%.
“We want the government to take stock of the situation during the strike as the Union Budget will be announced on February 28, the final day of our strike,” he said, adding they would send memoranda to the finance ministry and RBI stating their demands.
“We cannot accept a small hike. We have lowered our demands and cannot go below this,” he said.