All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) has called for an India-wide bank strike on November 19, against various mounting attacks in banks.

Since its creation in 1946, the AIBEA has fought for the right to collective bargaining and the right to negotiations. After a 20-year long struggle, AIBEA was able to succeed and reach direct negotiations with banks and signed the first bipartite industry-level settlement in 1966 covering 45 banks – 26 Class A banks, 9 banks class B and 10 class C banks.

From 1966 to the present, AIBEA has secured 11 bipartite agreements covering employee salaries, service conditions, bank operations, customer service improvement, technology and computerization, etc. Thus, the main element of industrial relations in banks is bilateralism. On the same basis, in each bank, bilateral agreements have come to govern the conditions of service of employees. Lately, it is observed that some banks do not care about bilateral discussions and violate bipartite agreements by unilateral decisions. For example, in 2005, a regulation was signed by the AIBEA and the Association of Indian Banks (IBA) prescribing the procedure for transferring employees from surplus centers to deficit centers to correct staffing imbalances. This regulation does not provide for the routine and periodic transfer of employees from one station to another.

Thus, employees are transferable within the same branch from one branch to another, except in banks where there are specific agreements. The IBA has engaged with the AIBEA and other umbrella unions to extend the scope of the 2005 regulations. So far, no new regulations have been signed.

Speaking to Bizz Buzz, CH Venkatachalam, Secretary General of AIBEA, says: “Managements don’t care about bipartite settlement. But meanwhile some banks have started transferring employees from one station to another, citing the 2005 regulation which is limited only to the transfer of surplus areas to deficit areas.”

This is a flagrant violation of the 2005 bipartisan agreement. At one bank, more than 3,000 employees were transferred and the families of those employees were subjected to undue hardship. Even employees, employees with serious illnesses, employees with physical disabilities, employees who have children with physical or mental disabilities and who are caregivers, etc. have been mutated. Even when the labor authorities intervened, management ignored their advice, violated the provisions of the Labor Dispute Act, and forcibly transferred employees. It has therefore become a major issue.

Court ruling not complied with: Even when a High Court issued the ruling that the 2005 regulations only provide for the transfer from surplus areas to deficit areas, management persists in breach and unilateral decision.

Understanding and commitment not honored: when the union became agitated, the management of the bank came forward and agreed to solve the problem through mutual understanding. Unfortunately, even these agreements and commitments are not honoured.

If the bipartite agreement of the AIBEA is not respected by the bank and persists in the offense of harassing the employees, the AIBEA has no choice but to resort to a strike to express its protest.

Bank managements demanded a regulation to outsource regular and permanent jobs in banks on a contractual basis. Today, all jobs in banks are permanent jobs. After discussions, the unions signed an agreement in 2005 that IT-related jobs for which internal capacity is not available can be outsourced. IBA has discussed with the unions to expand the areas of outsourcing. During the last eleventh bipartite negotiations, IBA also wanted amendments to the 2005 regulations. But recently, some banks have taken the decision to give up permanent jobs like housekeeping, cash movement from one branch to another , to private entrepreneurs. This is a violation of the 2005 regulations. Outsourcing is a bilateral matter. But the banks want to decide unilaterally.

Supreme Court judgment not honored: The Supreme Court has ruled that collectors of daily bank deposits must be treated as workers. The bench of Delhi High Court has ordered deposit collectors to be eligible for gratuity as per the gratuity act. But some banks do not care about these judgments and refuse to pay bonuses to deposit collectors. In the name of taking disciplinary action, some of the leadership are violating disciplinary provisions, violating identity law, violating the principles of natural justice, he said.

In some banks, there are threats of cutbacks that will affect jobs and the job security of employees. In the name of the rationalization of companies, we seek to lay off employees. A major bank fired 240 deposit collectors without even paying them compensation. Simply the collectors of deposits have been thrown into the street.

Union rights violated: Under the Trade Union Act and the Labor Disputes Act, duly elected union leaders can negotiate with management. Some management deny this right even if their decision is illegal and violates labor laws.

To oppose these illegal and unjust actions by bank management and to protest against these attacks, AIBEA has called for a strike across India on November 19th.

In response to the strike notice, IBA – Indian Banks Association held a meeting with the AIBEA and relevant bank managements on November 5 in Mumbai.

According to Venkatachalam, “We explained the attacks and demanded corrections, but the managements of the banks justified their position.”

Subsequently, on November 10, the Chief Labor Commissioner called a conciliation meeting in Delhi. Unfortunately, the managements of the banks did not attend this meeting. Only IBA was present. Therefore, the issue could not be discussed or resolved. On the advice of the CLC, IBA agreed to hold another round of meetings on November 16. If the managements attend the meeting and agree to resolve the issues amicably, the AIBEA may reconsider the strike call.

If the banks’ managements continue their illegal and vindictive actions and do not agree to maintain bilateralism, the AIBEA will have no choice but to go ahead with the strike call. The UFBU supports the strike: Already the United Forum of Banking Unions representing all banking unions has given its support to our strike and demonstrations will take place throughout the country on November 18 in the evening before the November 19 strike. If the issues raised by the AIBEA in the strike notices are not resolved amicably, the AIBEA plans to intensify the agitation and further protest strikes will be staged, he said.