Strong unity of Maharashtra Bank workers forces management on the backfoot!

Report by KEC correspondent

The fighting unity of workers of the Bank of Maharashtra and the call for strike on 21 & 22 November forced the management to concede some of the demands. The management also agreed to discuss other demands.

It has been reported that All India Bank of Maharashtra Employees Federation, Bank of Maharashtra Karmachari Mahasangh, Bank of Maharashtra Karmachari Sena and Mahabank Navnirman Sena had given a joint strike call on 21st and 22nd November 2021. The strike call was one step in the struggle being waged by the Maharashtra Bank workers since July this year. However, the fighting unity of workers in spite of all attempts by management to split them, finally forced management to concede some of the demands. The management also agreed to discuss other demands in front of the Deputy Commissioner of Labour. In response to the management decision the unions decided to defer the strike.

In a joint communique issued by all the above unions, the unions clarified to all the Maharashtra Bank employees the details of their struggle and also the details of their discussions with the management. Keeping all the members informed in such a manner is in itself is a welcome step. The joint communique is given below with this article.

The unions first gave the strike notice on 31st August 2021 after which there was a joint discussion with the management on 15th September which failed. The unions continued to carry out agitations all across Maharashtra including a dharna in front of bank’s head office in Pune. Unions also made very effective use of social media, like for example a twitter morcha. Their hashtag #STAFF_SHORTAGE_IN_MAHABANK attracted more than 1.1 lakh visits within a couple of days. Subsequent talks also failed due to which on 27th September workers went on one day strike. Despite many tactics of the management, the strike was 100% successful. After that a dharna program was organised at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. In spite of many hurdles put up by the state government, like restrictions imposed by the police citing Corona pandemic, the dharna was highly successful. The management however continued its adamant attitude after which the call for the strike on 21st and 22nd October was given.

One of the key demands is “recruitment” to fill up vacancies. A look at following statistics will clarify tremendous work load increase on the Maharashtra bank workers.

March 2011 March 2015 June 2021
Total Branches 1536 1880 1962
Total Business  (in Rs. crores) 114332 223329 284970
Business per branch (in Rs. crores) 74.43 118.79 175.90
Total clerks 6544 5565 4043
Business per clerk (in Rs. crores) 17.47 40.13 70.48
Clerk per branch (number) 4.26 2.96 2.06
Total sub staff 2724 2290 1452
Sub-staff per branch (number) 1.77 1.21 0.74

Within 10 years the business per branch has increased by more than 235%, whereas the number of clerks has been reduced by 38% and the number of sub-staff has been reduced by 47%! It is also reported that in 1271 branches there is no housekeeping staff and in 697 branches there is no peon. In 448 branches there is neither a housekeeping staff nor a peon. In 55 branches there is no typist whereas in 729 branches there is only one typist, and in 668 branches there are only two typists!

Over last many years the management has followed a policy of not filling in the vacancies resulting from retirement, death, voluntary retirement or even promotion. As a result, the number of vacancies is continuously increasing. The kind of stress that Maharashtra bank employees are experiencing can be imagined. This is also adversely affecting service to the bank customers despite the best efforts by existing over-loaded workers.

From 2nd October the Bank of Maharashtra employees have simultaneously started a mass signature campaign drive against the privatisation of banking sector all across Maharashtra. They have been getting very good response from their customers –  working people, small traders and businessmen, farmers, etc.

As a result of all these successful militant activities, the management was forced to concede some demands immediately and also agreed to constitute a joint committee with union representatives to carry on further discussions on other issues. This was agreed by the management after the protracted negotiations for about 5 hours in presence of the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) Mumbai on 18 October 2021.

The joint communique issued by the unions has very correctly attributed the success to militant unity of all the workers belonging to different unions and also active support extended by all the officers associations and also by SC/ST/OBC Employees Welfare Associations. The communique has also firmly declared that the strike has been deferred and not cancelled, and that their fight shall continue till all the demands are met.

On behalf of all the member organisations of AIFAP we congratulate the Mahabank workers.

Since the launch of the policy of liberalisation and privatisation in 1991, the managements of all Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) have been taking various steps to make the individual enterprise attractive to private capitalist monopolies. Continuously reducing the total employee strength is one such step. Employing contract labour or giving some jobs to private contractors is another step. That is why whether it is banks or railways or insurance or defence or power sector or coal or steel or any other PSE, total number of employees has been continuously reduced and contract employees continuously increased. The fight for recruitment of permanent employees to fill up all vacancies and fight to make contract workers permanent is thus an important component of the struggle against privatisation.

MahBank.CLC_19.10.21_Cir_E(1)

 

 

 

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Dinkar Patil
Dinkar Patil
6 months ago

In the AIFAP website , this is the fourth victorious struggle reported in last 2-3 weeks, if I remember correctly. Uttarakhand and Maharashtra electricity workers, railway loco works struggle, ans now Maharashtra bank workers. This is very encouraging , especially in the current circumstances, when everywhere workers are under attack. Someone may say that they are small victories, but to my mind these victories hold some very important lessons, as enumerated in the circular released by Maharashtra bank unions. Lessons are –
1) If workers unite across different levels and unions then they can force management to accept demands
2) if workers threaten to stop work, managements get scared, since entire economic engine will come to a grinding halt

Not only me, but I am sure all of you, must be dreaming of a day when all the working people will unitedly refuse to accept the injustice being heaped on them !
But comrades, dreaming is not enough ! Let us work to make the dream a reality.

Shirish Kelkar
Shirish Kelkar
6 months ago

I felt very nice to read this report. No doubt unity of Maharashtra bank workers is a very important reason due to which Maharashtra bank management has been forced on the backfoot. But I think there is one more reason. Maharashtra bank workers have started signature campaign against bank privatisation. I myself signed on the campaign in Mumbai. I also read news and on this website, that signature campaign is getting excellent response. I think this has also put pressure on bank management.