Chennai, May 31 - The unions in the banking sector are squarely blaming the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) for forcing them to resort to a strike that entered the second and last day on Thursday.
"It is the IBA which has put the banking public to trouble and not the unions. The unions had given strike notice 20 days before the actual strike. The IBA did not respond to that," C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) said.
"The IBA has to be blamed for the strike. Even for the conciliation meeting called by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Delhi) the IBA had sent a junior official who had no authority," All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary D.T. Franco told IANS.
Both the union leaders said the resignation of Usha Ananthasubramanian as IBA's Chairperson following the scam in Punjab National Bank (PNB) will not have any bearing on the wage negotiations.
"While the IBA has put the customers to difficulty it is the banks who will be saving cost or earning income due to the two day strike. The staff will not be paid wages for the period they were on strike; there will be saving on power costs as the offices were closed," Venkatachalam said.
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, called for a two-day strike that started on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Venkatachalam said the unions had requested the IBA to come up with better offer than the mere two per cent hike offer, so that the strike could be averted.
He said the IBA was also asked not to delink the wage negotiations for bank officers in the Scales 4-7. The IBA did not do anything.
At the conciliation meeting on Monday, the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) asked the IBA not to raise new controversies like delinking the wage talks for officers in the 4-7 scale, he said.
"Though the CLC tried its best to sort out the strike issues, there is no positive developments," Franco had said earlier.
Wage revision in the banks was due from November 1, 2017.
According to Venkatachalam, the central government had been advising the IBA to conclude the wage issue before November, 2017.
Unions had submitted the Charter of Demands in May, 2017 and discussions commenced with them that month. But even though several rounds of discussions had taken place in the last one year, the IBA did not come forward to make any offer.
On May 5, the IBA made an offer to hike the wages by two per cent, quoting poor financial condition of the banks as a reason. This offer was not acceptable to the unions.
According to Franco and Venkatachalam, the IBA began the wage talks with five per cent hike during the last settlement.
"Over the years the wage cost for the banks are declining as experienced employees are retiring in large numbers and there is no commensurate new recruitment," Venkatachalam said.
Venkatachalam said he is not against the mechanism of annual talks for wage revisions instead of the elaborate negotiations at the end of every five years, strikes and other time consuming matters.
"It is the government and the management who are not in favour of annual pay hikes. We are for working out some mechanism for such an action," Venkatachalam said.
"There are some pros and cons. There is a proposal to do away with the wage settlements in the Wage Board Bill," Franco said.
The nationwide strike by the bankers has evoked great response for the second day in succession with more than 80,000 bank branches remaining closed.
"More than 10 lakh bankers are on strike for the second day," Venkatachalam said.
According to him, banking transactions worth about Rs 21,700 crore could not be put into effect across the country for the second day in succession.
A total of banking transactions worth about Rs 43,400 crore were affected during the two day strike.
"However, these transactions would be completed when the banks open their shutters on Friday. But for the bankers their two days wages were lost due to the inaction of IBA," Venkatachalam said.