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Union and IBA to meet soon, banks favouring enhanced work-life balance

With technological support, the WFH facility was offered to employees during the pandemic and even now is in force in some banks as part of their risk mitigation and business continuity plans.

June 29, 2022 / 07:26 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The bank union and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) will meet on July 1 to discuss the union's demand for a five-day week and other issues related to employees. While some of the banks are in favour of providing a flexible work model to their employees to help improve their work-life balance, they are looking forward to the final decision of the meeting and expecting a middle ground.

The demand, together with others such as the restoration of an old pension scheme for bank employees and revision of the pension amount, will be discussed at a meeting between the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and employee unions.

“We have a meeting on July 1 with the IBA and we demand two complete days off on weekends. We want a better work-life balance for employees,” said C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary at the All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA).

Bank employees went on a day’s strike on June 27 to press their demands. They want time off every Saturday and Sunday, saying the technology at the disposal of banks these days would allow a smooth transitioning to a five-day workweek.

Bank management may be willing to offer a flexible work model, including the option of working remotely on some days of the week. But human resource team of several banks indicated that work-from-home wouldn’t become the norm, but some employees whose presence at bank branches isn’t deemed essential could be allowed to do so.

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Upgrading the work model 

Whether to go for a five-day workweek will be decided on the outcome of the IBA’s negotiation with the unions after approval by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the ministry of finance, the human resource departments of various scheduled commercial banks said.

In upcoming meetings with the ministry, the IBA will take up the matter with government officials, people familiar with the situation said.

Bank employees started working on alternate Saturdays seven years ago. Bank unions have been demanding since 2015 that they be given time off on all Saturdays and Sundays.

In 2020, the State Bank of India came out in favour of upgrading the remote work model.

“With global acceptability of Work-from-Home (WFH) arrangements, the Bank is in process of upgrading its existing WFH policy to Work from Anywhere (WFA). Productivity tools & technology are in already place to perform administrative work remotely,” SBI report quoted then SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar as saying.

Bank of Baroda favoured a similar system. “Employees will get remote working options for certain roles and hybrid employment formats,” Bank of Baroda Managing Director and CEO Sanjiv Chadha said.

Middle ground 

The question arises whether the unions and IBA can strike a compromise and agree on middle ground.

“It may not be possible to allow all the employees to have prolonged or permanent Work-From-Home, as especially for public service banks, around 60-70 percent branch employees need to be there for customer service. But the remaining 30-40 percent employees have the work profile that can be done remotely,” said a public service bank spokesman.

With employees of Life Insurance Corporation of India switching to a five-day workweek, and the money markets and Reserve Bank of India too having a holiday on the weekends, bank unions have stepped up their demand.

“In the conciliation proceedings initiated based on the strike call, IBA has agreed to hold negotiations / discussions on the charter of demands. As our Bank is part of IBA, any decision on a five-day week schedule will be solely based on the outcome of IBA negotiation and its due approval by RBI and the ministry of finance,” said Anto George T, senior general manager – HR & Administration, South Indian Bank.

With technological support, the WFH facility was offered to employees during the pandemic and even now is in force in some banks as part of their risk mitigation and business continuity plans.

“As regards WFH, banking being very customer-centric and a highly service-oriented industry, there are certain limitations in extending the facility to field-level functionaries handling primary sales and branch operations,” said George.
Pushpita Dey is a banking and finance correspondent.
first published: Jun 29, 2022 07:26 pm
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