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The management-employee chasm

The management-employee chasm

The government is yet to respond to the protests staged by bank employees on account of issues that consolidate the management-employee fabric. First on December 21 and then on Wednesday, these strikes are not misadventures of employees emanating from ordinary issues. An ordinary issue does not get the impetus of a mass movement anyway. The revision of wages to cover all scales (1-7) and dissent over the announced amalgamation of Dena and Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda are at the core of the strike in PSBs. United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) justified the strike through rational reasoning of why the announced merger by the government is actually not in the interest of banks or its customers. And, there are two good reasons. Primarily, UFBU said, "This merger will see a large number of branches getting closed and customers will have to face hardships as already banks are burdened with the implementation of various government schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Mudra, social security insurance, and Prime Minister's housing scheme, among others." Second, the merged entity will have a combined business of Rs 14.82 trillion, making it the third-largest bank after the State Bank of India (SBI) and HDFC Bank, but that is futile since the nation has witnessed how large lenders are plagued with a number of NPAs. In fact, that was primarily why they had to go through all the recapitalisation aid from the government in the first place – recalibrating the lenders' situation by fixing their financial health. Making a large lender does not solve the issue of stressed assets. Everyone lauded the government's massive recapitalisation plan of Rs 2.11 trillion, which came with the intention of reviving the financial prowess of banks that had been plunged into crisis due to stressed assets. However, plans like merging banks to create a bigger bank have dual implications of perturbing functioning at the customer level and causing greater susceptibility to NPAs. But the government argues that it will create a stronger and sustainable lender. Hence, the obvious impasse! And, in between all the tussle, customers are at the receiving end. With two strikes and public holidays (Christmas and weekend), the situation that arose witnessed a series of non-bank days which adversely impacted civil society. Services like deposits and withdrawal at branches, cheque clearances and issuance of demand drafts, among others, were interrupted, amounting huge pressure on branches itself to clear the backlog. Transactions worth crores were held due to the stretched closure of banks. Two strikes in less than a week should supposedly make a great impact on the management and government, whose responses are awaited. Even in distress, some branch officials managed a clean protest wherein senior members were deployed to keep the bank processes running, causing less harm to customers – the kind of protest that Japan is known for. Indeed, the huge practice of such a protest will have a sizeable impact on the management.

Digging into this chapter of bank strikes, compounded on the stressed financial health of PSBs, there is an underlying issue of wage revision, as mentioned earlier. Keeping the merger issue at bay, wage revision is in itself worth two strikes. It is the pay scale that bothers an employee on an immediate note more than other issues having far-sighted ramifications. Financial stress will jeopardise any level of human resource, and that is a fact. The All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC) strike call notice, which was issued after the confederation walked out of bipartite negotiations with the Indian Banks' Association (IBA), demands full mandate for scale I to scale VII officers, introduction of a five-day work week, salary revision according to the charter of demands and a defined benefit pension payment scheme unlike the NPS. It is also opposing the IBA's offer to discuss the issue of wage revision of officers up to scale III with the Officers Associations. With the 11th Bipartite Settlement (BPS) due from November 1, 2017, it was about time the uproar spread like wildfire across the country. Hindsight of the way the banking management has proceeded cannot let anyone condemn the employees for their vexed state. There was a time when bank employees were the highest paid government workers and it is tough to accept that over the years they have been pushed down, despite the long working hours. Now, the strike across PSBs demands the redressal of pertinent issues which will facilitate a better working environment for the vexed employees who might rate a severely poor condition in an average human resource survey of satisfaction — across all fields, owing to their current ordeal. Considering how these strikes affect the functioning of the banking sector, it is undesirable for any nation to let down their financial army – urging an urgent resolution.

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