RBI Employees Withdraw Strike, Not To Go On Mass Casual Leave On Sept 4 & 5
After a series of meetings between management and Reserve Bank of India employee union, the later has decided to withdraw their strike. RBI Managment sought some more time to consider the demands of their employees. The employees at the Reserve Bank of India had earlier denied RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s request to withdraw their two-day mass casual leave on September 4 and 5, saying that they are left with no choice but to intensify their protest against the Centre for successively refusing their long-pending demand for pension security.
“As responsible and reasonable trade unions, we decided to respond to the Governor’s and the Deputy Governor’s appeal for giving them ‘some time’ to resolve the issues,” the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees said in a statement, reported news agency IANS. The union has said that they shall wait till the first week of January for their demands to be met and if management fails, then they shall go for a flash strike.
The nationwide strike called by the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees (UFRBOE) was believed to paralyse the operations of the central bank and other major lenders in the country for the two days. Cheque clearance, payment transactions, real-time gross settlement (RTGS) and National electronic funds transfer (NEFT) systems would have got affected, leading to business losses of tens of thousands of crores of rupees.
What are the demands of RBI employees?
The RBI employees are demanding a revision of pension for 21,000 retirees and the last chance to switch from Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) to the pension for 2600 CPF retainers. Despite repeated appeals to the Finance Minister, Prime Minister and the President, and multiple silent demonstrations at various RBI offices across India, the employees have only received negative responses.
The Centre recently revised pension of nearly 55 lakh central government employees and updated pension of 25,000 professors and non-teaching staff of UGC sponsored universities. A United Forum press release stated, “To express deep resentment at the attitude of the officials of the government of India, RBI staff members have waited too long, and the limit of patience is crossing and are left with no alternative but to observe two consecutive days strike action.”
It has been 16 years since the last time the pensions of RBI retirees was last revised, reportedly due to interference and instructions from the Finance Ministry.
What is the problem?
As explained by Business Standard, the pension for central government employees get periodically revised with every pay commission-recommended wage revision. However, the pension of retired RBI officials has been fixed at 50 per cent of the last pay drawn.
The central board of RBI has been trying for the past years to get the pension system updated in line with the central government employees, with present Governor Urjit Patel and his predecessor Raghuram Rajan taking the issue to the Centre. However, the government continues to refuse their demands.
The RBI has a pension corpus fund of Rs 16,000 crore, due to its contribution on account of the provident funds of the employees. This means that the cost of pension updation and additional provident funds for recruits after 2012 can be borne by the central bank itself, without burdening the Centre’s exchequer.
Last year, the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation had called the Centre’s conduct to be arbitrary, illegal and whimsical, and unanimously recommended that the bank should be allowed to improve its pension schemes. However, the Committee’s report was returned by the government, claiming that the RBI’s proposal will increase its expenses and give rise to a ‘contagion effect’, an economic term which explains the possibility of an economic crisis in a country.
The United Forum has argued that the Centre’s claim is baseless, on the grounds of the recent update of the pensions of 55 lakh central government retirees. “Having given this benefit to its own pensioners, it cannot stand in the way of extending the same benefit to a few thousand RBI pensioners.”
The Logical Indian take
The Reserve Bank of India is the country’s central bank- it handles all the banking needs of the government. The demands of the RBI employees appear to be reasonable, unlike the government’s response to them. By continuing to refuse said demands, the Centre is not only undermining the status of an RBI employee but is also undermining the Parliamentary Committee’s decision.