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Monday, April 28, 2014

Reform Bank Unions



Of late, the performance of the trade unions and staff associations in banks is turning very sick, causing displeasure, dissatisfaction and anguish to all members. I attempted to analyse the exact reasons for the great fall in the standards of trade unions in general and in banks in particular.
I could narrow down on a few reasons –
(a) General degradation in the morals and ethics of the whole society
(b) No union leaders are willing to make any sacrifices today; on the contrary, they want to enjoy all powers, privileges and comforts on a par with the top management officials of the bank.
(c) They have built an empire for themselves and it is very difficult for the ordinary members to approach them
(d) They are always surrounded by a coterie of chosen people
(e) These members of the coterie share a part of the spoils thrown at them by their leaders
(f) Even if the members somehow manage to gain access to them, these leaders neither evince interest nor have patience to listen to the genuine grievances of ordinary members
(g) They want to cling to their posts by hook or crook; to achieve this objective, they throw all good traditions, customs and conventions into the dust bin and they even go to the extent of changing or rewriting the existing byelaws of the union to suit their whimsies
(h) Finally, more than a treacherous or autocratic management, these union leaders also indulge in witch-hunt and take revenge on the persons who begin to question their supremacy and unhelpful attitude and behaviour
What shall be done to rectify the situation?
We must enforce some radical changes in the trade union activities immediately. These are very much necessary to regain the confidence and faith of ordinary members.
1. First, introduce transparency in all trade union activities.
2. All members of the union must be supplied with the latest copy of byelaws in full (not abridged version), upon their joining the union.
3. The Union must have a dedicated website containing all particulars regarding the service conditions of the members, facilities/benefits available to them, welfare measures in force and service/conduct regulations. This site must be updated on a daily basis i.e. at least once in 24 hours.
4. All important developments in the bank and the banking industry must be shared freely.
5. When there is a call given for a strike, widespread publicity is given using all channels of communication – from circulars, phone calls, SMS alerts, emails, wall posters, banners to posts made in Social Networking Sites like Facebook. But, when a strike action is abruptly called off at the last moment, no proper explanation and convincing reasons are given. This must change.
6. There shall be total democratic way of functioning and the ordinary members shall not be ill-treated nor ignored. It must be realized that the ordinary members do not remain at the mercy of their leaders; on the other hand, the leaders survive on the support of the members.
7. There must be several committees with well laid down responsibilities to look after the interests and welfare of the members. This will relieve the pressure on the top leaders and also diversify the power and authority evenly.
8. No office bearer shall hold two posts simultaneously.
9. No office bearer can occupy the same post for more than one term.
10. No office bearer shall be allowed to occupy any position more than twice.
11. Polls whenever due must be conducted as per the regular schedule and no postponement for whatever reason will be permitted.
12. If due to any reason beyond the control of the existing office bearers the polls could not be conducted before the expiry of the specified term, then the polls must be conducted within 60 days from the original due date and the newly elected team must assume office within the next 15 days.
13. No retired staff must be allowed to contest for any position in the union.
14. If necessary, any retired staff may be permitted to offer written advice to the present team of office bearers and such advice must be kept in the public domain (official web site), if not immediately, at least after two weeks.
15. The funds of the union shall be utilised as per the ceilings fixed as follows:
(a) 10% on fees to parent bodies (at the national level) to which affiliation is made
(b) 20% on rent, electricity, fuel and water
(c) 10% on the purchase and maintenance of office equipments including Computers, UPS, Telephones, Fax machine, Copier-cum-Printer, Air-conditioners etc. and office furniture (No cars or four wheelers must be purchased/owned by the unions)
(d) 5% on stationery, printing and postage
(e) 10% on Travel, Accommodation and Food
(f) 5% on core union activities like demonstrations, strikes, dharnas, meetings etc.
(g) 5% on social causes (this is mandatory)
(h) 10% on legal matters including fighting court cases
(i) 15% to build up capital reserves
(j) 3% on contingencies
(k) 7% on All others
1. In case of any deviation from these ceilings fixed, the approval/ratification of all members through Annual General Meeting must be obtained. The time limit for ratification by AGM is 3 months.
2. In case of any single expenditure/transaction exceeding Rs.2 Lakhs, such details must be published in the official web site.
3. A single transaction cannot be allowed to be split into several transactions during the same financial year, to circumvent the above rule.
4. All transactions between the office bearers and the Union as an entity must be with the prior approval from not less than 10% of the members on the rolls, randomly selected. In other words, the same members cannot be a part of such group more than once.
5. However, reimbursements made to office bearers on account of their expenses on travel, accommodation and food while they are on tour will be treated on a different footing.
6. Similarly, reimbursements made to office bearers towards expenditure on their Mobile or Landline phones, newspapers and magazines (subject to certain pre-determined limits) will be outside the purview of the above-cited ceiling of 10%.
7. Office bearers are entitled to stay in single star hotels only, when they are on tour.
8. They will be eligible to claim actual train/taxi fare, as per their entitlement depending on the post they hold in the bank.
9. They shall not travel by air, except under situations of emergency. The total amount claimed by each office bearer on air travel shall not exceed 10% of his/her total expenses on travel during the relevant financial year.
10. While on travel, the office bearer shall not take his/her family members along with him/her, at the cost of the union.
11. The office bearers shall themselves fight the legal cases filed against them in their individual capacity. However, if they represent the union, they can draw from union account to meet the legal expenses.
For instance, if a case is filed against the General Secretary or President of the Union by the management or a customer or any other agency and not against them personally, the union will bear their legal expenses. Suppose they have swindled union’s money or indulged in some criminal activity (either directly or indirectly) or their election is challenged by another person/group, they cannot touch union money to defend themselves. This is just an example so as to illustrate the point as above.
1. Term of the office bearers shall be uniformly 2 years or 3 years as mentioned in the byelaws of individual unions.
2. A person indulging in intimidation, violence, fraud, corruption, illegal and criminal activities and abuse of power cannot contest in union polls. There shall be documentary evidence to support the allegations.
3. Similarly, an office bearer of the union who is found guilty of any of these offences/misconduct will lose his/her post automatically and will remain disqualified for the rest of his/her life.
4. An office bearer can be removed from office through a court order on the grounds of certain serious irregularities committed by him/her. In such a situation, both the plaintiff and the defendant have to meet the entire legal expenses themselves.
5. An Executive Committee comprising 0.5% of the total membership strength shall be constituted to manage the routine and administrative matters of the union. However, keeping the operational convenience in view, the size of this committee is restricted to only 30 at the maximum.
6. The E.C. will meet at least once a month and conduct deliberations on various issues concerning the members.
7. The quorum for E.C. is minimum 10 persons.
8. The quorum for Annual General Meeting is not less than 10% of the total membership on the union rolls.
9. If there is any dispute or division amongst the members, two parallel meetings of E.C./AGM will not be allowed.
10. The matter will be referred to the parent body for reconciliation/arbitration.
11. If the matter still remains unresolved, it must be taken to a court of law, at the expense of the individual parties/groups.
12. In the committees formed by the bank for various purposes like Joint Consultative Committee, Provident Fund Trust etc., the representatives of the unions shall be rotated every financial year.
13. Similarly, the union’s representative nominated to the bank’s board of directors shall hold office for only one year and he will be replaced by another office bearer of the union by rotation.
14. Union representatives must be inducted into various other committees like Customer Service Committee, Advertising and Publicity Committee, Canteen Committee, Staff Welfare Committee etc.
15. The union leaders shall not interfere in matters of promotion, transfer etc. However, they can ask for open, transparent and fair policy and practice in these matters.
16. Union Representatives shall also be inducted into a broad-based Disciplinary Committee constituted to look into disciplinary proceedings against their members. It shall be ensured that there is no bias, prejudice, selectivity, favouritism, discrimination or vindictiveness in such proceedings at any stage. Total transparency is essential and the committee’s proceedings must be carefully recorded.
17. Unions must conduct workshops, seminars and coaching classes to enrich the knowledge and develop the competitive skills of the members.
18. The monopoly of a single recognised Union in a bank must end. All unions having a strength of not less than 20% of the total membership will be eligible to receive the ‘recognised union’ status. Nevertheless, only the top 3 unions having not less than 20% membership may be accorded the “recognised union” status by the respective banks.
19. In important H.R. matters like fresh recruitment, placement, training, transfers, promotion policy, staff welfare and wage revision, the voices of individual members must be heard and the official website of the bank as well as the Trade Unions must publish the views of the individual staff members in brief. Except where the posts are very vulgar and aimed at character assassination of a few individuals, they must be published without any censorship.

Date: 27-09-2013 - pannvalan


  1. Trade un
    unions live and behave like the colonial raj.Refoms are urgently needed and more transparency is required.

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