Sucheta Dalal :Retired bank employees get a raw deal in new wage agreement
Sucheta Dalal

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Retired bank employees get a raw deal in new wage agreement  

May 12, 2010

Retired bank employees, who had opted for provident fund (PF) and gratuity at the time of retirement instead of a pension, are feeling left out from the benefits of the new wage settlement signed between the Indian Banks Association (IBA) and the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), a body comprising nine bank unions.

According to the new wage agreement signed on 27 April 2010, about 8 lakh employees from 26 public sector banks (PSBs), 12 private sector and 8 foreign banks will get a salary hike of about 17.5%. The revision will cost banks Rs4,816 crore, including arrears payment from November 2007, which will be given in a lump sum, K Unnikrishnan, deputy chief executive, IBA said.

A total of 2.7 lakh employees and 60,000 pensioners will be benefited by the second pension option in the agreement. For employees who had not joined the pension scheme in 1995, the new agreement gives them another opportunity to join the scheme. However, there is a catch. They will have to refund the entire amount of the bank's contribution to their PF and interest accrued thereon received on retirement with the employee’s share in the contribution.

"On an individual basis, this payment over and above the bank's contribution to PF and interest thereon has been worked out at 56% of the said amount of the bank's contribution to the PF and interest thereon received by the employee on retirement," the agreement, a copy of which is with Moneylife, says.

According to a comment posted by ‘Bhas’ on, new pension optees will have to pay 2.8 times of their November 2007 revised salary from the earlier agreed 1.6 times. "All unions kept mum on this, which came to light only after signing and yet they say this is historic. All plans were accepted as per IBA modifications, and for this it has taken almost two and a half years," the comment reads.

CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and convener for the UFBU, said, "People had made the mistake of not joining the pension scheme earlier and some of them are still not ready to accept it.

What they are not willing to understand is with the pension scheme, they can receive a regular income more than the interest they may earn. Plus this pension has a provision for dearness allowance to be revised every six months."

Refunding the entire amount of the bank's contribution to their PF and interest accrued thereon received by the employee on retirement with the share in contribution has not gone down well with some retired bank employees. Whether the employee retired in 1997 or in 2007, there is no differentiation and both have to refund the entire amount of bank’s contribution along with interest. For example, an employee who retired in 1997 might have received Rs6 lakh as terminal dues. If he invests the same amount at an average interest rate of 8%, then he would receive about Rs48,000 per year just as interest. From 1997 to 2010, he most probably would have received more amount as interest than his investment. 

"This second pension offer is nothing but a cruel joke on retired bank employees. Retired bank employees, especially those above the age of 66, are finding this offer unviable and unfair since they have to pay a heavy sum and chances of recovering the principal amount are less," said Jagdip H Vaishnav, a retired bank employee.

When asked to explain the contribution and pension per month, Mr Venkatachalam said that if for example, an employee had received Rs10 lakh as PF and gratuity on retirement, then he will have to refund this Rs10 lakh plus around Rs5.5 lakh as his own contribution. However, the bank will also contribute around the same amount and the actual amount an employee has to refund comes to Rs10 lakh. To add to this, he will receive pension arrears of eight months at a rate of about Rs15,000 per month. If he can use this money for the refund amount, then his actual contribution to the new pension scheme comes to just about Rs8.5 lakh. He will continue to receive Rs15,000 every month thereafter. In addition, after every six months, the dearness allowance component in his pension will increase, so he will receive more money. On the other hand if he invests Rs8.5 lakh, then he would get an interest of about Rs68,000 for a year or  Rs5,700 per month. Now he has to decide whether to opt for Rs15,000 per month or Rs5,700 per month, Mr Venkatachalam said.

One problem with the pension scheme is that some of the retired employees may not have enough cash left with them since usually people try to buy expensive things such as a home or a four-wheeler from the money earned at retirement. They most likely would find it very difficult to garner the required money so as to receive monthly pension or regular income.

Vishwas Utagi, secretary, AIBEA said, “We have been advising employees to keep the funds they received at the time of retirement separate, in case they plan to opt for the new pension scheme. So, I think refunding the bank’s contribution and interest should not be an issue.”

The UFBU has been asking the IBA to allow another option to for those to join the pension scheme—employees who were in the service of banks prior to 29 September 1995 in case of PSBs, and 26 March 1996 in case of associate banks of the State Bank of India (SBI) and who did not opt for the scheme. IBA, however, was not ready for the same due to cost considerations. The UFBU then offered to share a portion of the initial funding liability on a one-time basis for extending pension to the non-optees.

An actuarial valuation of liability by actuaries showed an estimated funding gap of Rs6,000 crore. The UFBU offered to contribute 30% or about Rs1,800 crore to bridge the gap for retired employees. An actuarial valuation on similar lines as conducted for serving employees had estimated the funding gap as Rs3,115 crore for those retirees or their families.

“Moreover, as per the new wage agreement, bank employees, both in service and retired, will receive arrears effective from November 2007 and it would help them while contributing to the 30% funding gap,” Mr Utagi said.

UFBU is receiving calls from children of retired bank employees asking how much their parents will have to pay to get a regular monthly income and these children are ready to pay from their own pockets, Mr Venkatachalam added.
— Yogesh Sapkale

-- Sucheta Dalal