By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Jan 20 (SocialNews.XYZ) The much-anticipated divestment of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has been opposed from various quarters but the company's unions seem to have only shown token opposition to the move, according to banking industry players.
The purported reason for this is a veritable 'deal' struck with the LIC management and the government last year, giving the LIC staffers a significant pay-and-perks advantage over the banking industry, they claimed.
These include a hike in Dearness Allowance and a five-day working week for LIC's 1,35,000 employees, compared with the rest of the industry that is saddled with a lower DA and alternate Saturdays off.
In the last wage revision (April 2021), the LIC staffers were given a 0.08 per cent hike for every 4-point rise in the DA calculation, although the banking industry is getting only 0.07 per cent for every 4-point rise.
Besides the 'higher pay', the LIC staffers also work less -- enjoying a five-day week with all Saturdays off -- compared with the industry norms of alternate Saturdays holiday.
"This move by the Centre has created an imbalance in the entire banking and insurance sector with the LIC staffers being given a favourable treatment, ostensibly to rush through the LIC IPO without much objections from its employees," said All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) General Secretary S. Nagarajan.
Not only the AIBOA, but at least three MPs have recently written letters to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Finance Dr. Bhagwat Karad and Department of Financial Services, drawing their attention to the discrepancy and demanding that there should be parity.
They are: Lok Sabha MP Communist Party of India's K. Subbarayan (Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu), Rajya Sabha MPs of Congress Kumar Ketkar and Shiv Sena's Anil Desai.
"There is an exceptionally glaring disparity with regard to the calculation of the Dearness Allowance," said Subbarayan, referring to the bipartite settlement between the banking unions and the Indian Banks Association and the Wage Settlement for the LIC.
The CPI MP pointed out that while the merger of points of DA with the Base Pay for the banks and insurance sectors, there is a difference in the calculations, and though the difference is of only 0.01 per cent, it has a cumulative effect and add up to create a "gulf of disparity".
"The disparity in payscale and calculations of DA between banking sector and insurance sector should be revisited and revised in order to bring parity between these two financial sectors," urged Desai.
The MPs have also pointed out how the banking sector has been clamouring for a five-day week since 2006, but after 10 years, got only two Saturdays off each month, while the Government has already granted LIC staffers a 5-day week since the agreement in April 2021.
"There cannot be a tangible justification to reject a five-day week for the banks while the international banking system, the Reserve Bank of India, Central and State government offices and undertakings have all implemented five-day week," Subbarayan said.
"The LIC unions, claiming to be pro-worker, seem to have quietly accepted the government's move as they have benefitted in the latest wage revision... Thus, all their 'fiery opposition' to the divestment plans is now mere tokenism," Trade Union Joint Action Committee Joint-Convenor Vishwas Utagi said sharply.
Nagarajan said that LIC -- founded in 1956 after merging 245 insurance companies and PF societies in those days -- is headquartered in Mumbai, with 8 Zonal offices, 113 Divisional Offices, manned by 1,35,000 officers-staffers all over India.
"The Centre is planning to dilute the LIC capital by 5-10 per cent to mop up around Rs 1,00,000-crore against total target set to achieve the disinvestment of Rs 1,75,000 crore, as per the budget proposals,"=" Nagarajan said.
He said the AIBOA has also written to the Centre to correct the DA calculation anomaly and also extend the five-day week to the banking sector to make it on par with the insurance sector.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: email@example.com)