The Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has formally declined a request from employee unions to keep bank branches open for five days a week, while also expressing inability to hike wages by more than its proposal of 12 per cent.
It has not agreed to the suggestion following views of some “important stakeholders”, according to a circular issued by the staff unions, under the umbrella of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). The unions have to agree to the IBA’s decision for it to be implemented.
“The bank managements feel that this is not an opportune time to implement five-day working week at this stage as lenders and banks are working together towards financial inclusion,” a PSB chief executive said, requesting anonymity.
The unions have been demanding a five-day work week since a long time. From September 2015, the IBA had agreed to allowing bank branches to remain shut on alternate Saturdays (the second and the fourth Saturday of every month).
“PSBs are serving rural and semi-urban areas and any move to reduce the working days may bring down the connect with customers, especially when direct benefit transfer schemes are being focused upon in a big way,” the executive added.
Sources said the Department of Financial Services, under the finance ministry, is in favour of keeping three Saturdays off in a month, but was awaiting a nod from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the proposal. “This was discussed in a meeting held between Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar and bank officers’ union on September 23,” a person who was a part of the meeting said.
Wage negotiation talks are going on between the IBA and the UFBU, which include discussion on pay hike, the number of working days and other issues related to salary restructuring and pension.
“There is a possibility to get five-day working week on two counts: one is the alternative channel utilised by customers, and the digital reach. This issue is of prime importance to us,” said All India Bank Officers Association General Secretary S Nagarajan.
In the previous meeting held on October 18, the IBA stated that a 12 per cent hike in pay slip cost would result in an annual burden of Rs 6,319 crore on all PSBs, including State Bank of India. “They further stated that including the cost of superannuation benefits, the total cost would come up to Rs 11,865 crore as of March 31, 2017, which is a substantial cost and hence unions should settle at this,” a communique by the UFBU stated.
The current wage revision is due from November 2017, after the terms of the previous bipartite wage settlement ended in October 2017. In the last wage revision in 2012, which was for the period between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2017, bank employees got a 15 per cent wage hike.
During the wage negotiation meetings, the IBA had initially proposed a 2 per cent hike in wages, which was subsequently proposed to be increased to 6 per cent, then 10 per cent and now 12 per cent.
The IBA has also proposed a performance-linked incentive scheme to be implemented for the first time for PSB employees. The unions will submit their recommendations to the IBA on this proposal soon, Venkatachalam said.