Kudos!!!!! to the Bank Employees and Officers for standing like a rock under the banner UFBU( United Forum of Bank Unions: The umbrella forum of 9 Bank Unions including Indian National Bank Employees’ Federation & Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress) and making Two Days Bank Strike on 31.01.2020 and 01.02.2020 a grand success. IBA (Indian Banks Association) merely was showing that a conciliation approach was attempted by it even till the last moment on 30.01.2020 which was nothing but a farce. Thereafter giving Public Notice IBA was making another attempt to prove its sincere approach that despite, offering a hike of 19% wage revision including Performance Linked Incentive (PLI) UFBU decided to proceed with the strike. By giving the reason that the economy of the country is passing through a testing time, IBA has been denying the genuine demands of 20% wage hike excluding Performance Linked Incentive and other demands like the revision of family pension and up-gradation of pension, etc. In the same Notice, it is agreed by the IBA that Banks are the principal players in the economic development.
IBA during negotiations created history whereby offering hike from 12.25% to 13% and thereafter from 13% to 13.5% was like a 26th January Offer in Malls valid for one day only. The Chairman of IBA repeated such an offer where it was increased to 15% again with the conditions that there won’t be any negotiation on 5 days week, the merger of special allowance, an increase of load factor, etc. The fact is that even if the earlier offer of 13.5% hike would have been accepted then after adding 2.5% PLI and 1.36% as 5-day Privilege Leave encashment would have surely made the offer to more than that offer of 15% of IBA Chairman. Thus, misleading facts were placed in the Notice published by IBA.
Secondly IBA till now has not come up positively on the revision of Family Pension, up-gradation of pension of retirees. All these have angered not only the Existing Bank Employees and Officers but also the retirees and family pensioners. Two days strike has shown that all Bank Staff together are standing firmly under the banner of UFBU and have decided to remain united till the respectable wage revision is offered and legitimate demands are settled.
It is unfortunate that on the one hand IBA in spite of knowing that Banks are the principal players in the economic development and on the other hand Finance Ministry also knows that all Government policies irrespective of many hardships Bankers are implementing them day and night and carry the same to the nook and corner of the country. But when it comes to the wage revision of Bank Employees and Officers, including the retirees’ demands, both the IBA and Finance Ministry comes with the same reason that financial health of Banks and economic conditions of the country are not sound enough to bear the burden of our demands. On the contrary, the fact is that neither the Bank Employees nor Officers are responsible for the downfall of Banks and the Economy of the Nation. (Mounting Corporate NPAs, write off of loans, Huge Provisions for bad loans are eating profits of Banks.)
Coming to the budget that is presented on 01.02.2020 by Finance Minister, it is seen as a historical one but for the only one reason that Ms. Nirmala Seetharamanji took more than 2 hrs and 45 minutes to present the same. Barring this, there is nothing extra-ordinary in the 7th budget presented by NDA/BJP Government. The knee jerk steps taken by the Current Government have proved that the Indian Economy needs some remedial measures to bring it back on the track. Unemployment is at peak; farmers’ distress has forced thousands of them to commit suicide. Minimum Support Price (MSP) has remained a dream for farmers, doubling farmers’ income has been seen in every budget presented by the government, upliftment of fisheries sector is presented but again without any proper roadmap and allocation. Allocation of funds for Higher Education is also made but unfortunately with this brain drain has been witnessed whereby Youth of the country pursues higher education and settles abroad contributing there.
Disinvestment in IDBI and LIC are some of the major decisions taken by the Finance Ministry. This also proves that the Government to bridge the gap of the deficit has taken such steps. The worth of LIC is more than Rs.30 lac crore. LIC presently has NPAs of the app. Rs.30 thousand crores which are because they have been forced to invest and take over Pvt. Companies which were in losses. Slowly all PSUs are being either partly or fully disinvested. The government since demonetization and GST till now has never achieved the revenue targets and hence deficit has been increasing year after year. If the Bankers fail to achieve the targets, then the Balance Sheet is placed before them while negotiating the Wages and other demands including those of retirees.
In the current budget, it was expected that more money would be put in the hands of the rural and weaker sections of the society but again there was a disappointment as these sections are left to their fate. Big “tom-tom” is being raised stating that Dividend Tax has been abolished. But unfortunately, this tax will be collected from the individuals who would be getting the dividends. So, this is nothing but a backdoor collection of tax from individuals. Coming to Direct Taxes, jumbling has been done as an option has been given to individuals to forgo the exemptions and avail the tax benefits or continue with the old system of taxes. This is again a jumbling and the individual with income of Rs.10-15 lacs and more would be confused whether to forgo exemption like LTC, HRA, Std deduction, Entertainment allowance, tax benefit on interest paid on housing loan, interest on education loan, Majority Deductions under Sec.80, insurance premium, medical premium, disability benefits, etc. or avail the same. On looking through the new option it is doubtful that any taxpayer who is of sound mind would opt for a new option. The outcome is that no considerable amount is left at the hands of individual taxpayers.
Coming to Banks, depositors’ money is insured up to Rs.5 lacs from Rs.1 lac earlier but no concrete steps have been tabled as regards to uplifting the Co-operative banks like PMC.
Overall, this budget is nothing but an eyewash and Government as well as IBA are trying to give the message that since there is an economic slowdown and banks’ balance sheets are not sound enough to share the burden of Bank Employees and Officers including that of retirees demands. But friends, UFBU is very clear that for both Banks’ Balance Sheets and Economic Slowdown of the country, Bank employees and officers are not responsible. Respectable wage hike, 5 days week, revision in family pension and up-gradation of pension of retirees are the genuine demands which cannot be compromised at all.
Bank Employees and Officers are ready to continue their fight with 3 days Strike scheduled in March 2020 and Indefinite Strike from 1st April 2020.
Subhash S Sawant
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