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Difference of opinion is not confrontation.

Difference of opinion is not confrontation

Habibuddin Junaidi (49) is an Arts Graduate. He is the Secretary General, Pakistan Banks Employees Federation, the largest white collar trade union of the country. Mr. Junaidi started off in 1970 as a trade unionist when he was elected as General Secretary, Standard Bank Employees Union. In 1974 this Bank was merged in Habib Bank. His union emerged victorious in the referendum of 1976. Since then he is General Secretary - Habib Bank Workers Front, Karachi. He is a member of Sindh Labour Advisory Board, Govt. of Sindh. He also holds the portfolio of Senior Vice Chairman of All Pakistan Trade Union Organisation. Mr.Junaidi speaks about the privatisation process and the future development in banking industry. Following are the excerpts:

Economic Review: There is a state of confrontation between Government and the Bank workers over denationalisation. Does it affect Labour-Management relations. What measure do you suggest for cordial relations. Habibuddin Junaidi: It is incorrect to presume that a state of confrontation exists between the bank employees and the government or bank management. Difference of opinion is not confrontation. Our sole motive is to safeguard the interest of the workers of the banking industry. We have, time and again, made it clear that our stand against denationalisation was meant to accommodate the point of view of the workers in chalking out government policies. We never intended to damage the newly elected government. Unfortunately the democratic process in the country was blocked in one or the other way in past. We want to promote democracy in the country. In very odd circumstances, with no option, we adopted the course of struggle. But it was not aimed at damaging democracy and paving the way of reactionary forces. This clarification is necessary to emphasize that the trade unions of Pakistan are responsible enough and are democratic in approach. Such reactionary forces do operate in the country who want to revert the process of democracy in the country through agitation. But we don't subscribe the policies of such elements.

However, in democracy one has this right to hold the opposite view. Working class do differ on issues in a democratic manner. We expressed this right very sincerely. Simultaneously, we believe that the apprehensions of workers should be removed through bilateral dialogue in an amicable atmosphere. What has happened in the recent past was a sad story. We want to keep normal relations. We extend our support and cooperation towards management and the government on reciprocal basis. We are sure that an atmosphere of coordiality would soon prevail in banking industry.

ER: There are reports of retrenchment in the banking industry. If so, what measures have you taken to check it. HJ: There is nothing in black and white yet about retrenchment except the news reports. The management when contacted after my release from jail also showed ignorance about the reports. We are sure that the retrenchment of employees is quite a sensitive issue not for us only but for the government as well. However, it is premature to comment on the subject in absence of a clear cut policy.

ER: Are you satisfied with the wage structure in banks. HJ: The wage structure in banking industry appears somewhat better as compared to other government departments. But it is not satisfactory altogether. Inflation and the price hike adversely affects wages. Unless these factors are controlled it can't be described as satisfactory. However, the wage structure needs upward revision and since then our struggle in the direction would continue.

ER: Is the ethnic divide on labour front hampering trade-union movement in Pakistan. HJ: Trade Union activities cannot be viewed in isolation. These are the integral part of a society which is heading towards industrialisation. Whatsoever happens in a social, cultural and political set-up influences trade union movements. We have dealt this sensitive issue rationally and unemotionally on scientific grounds by adopting a policy of live and let-live. In Habib Bank, there exists an atmosphere of cordiality and brotherhood. We maintain good relations with everybody. The labour unions should understand that a sense of deprivation prevails among various ethnic groups and nationalities and there should be no confrontation with them. Any unwise action would further accelerate the deprivation sense. We should adopt a rational policy. Adjustment could be made through dialogue. Atleast 7 different groups having altogether opposing views are operating in Habib Bank Limited, where the total strength of workers is 31,000, we maintain good relations with each group without jeopardising the interest of the other. The CBA in HBL has the blessings of all ethnic groups.

ER: New Labour Policy is said to be in offing. What is it likely to contain. HJ: What the new labour policy will contain is difficult to say at this juncture because I was in jail when the meetings of the labour leaders were held with the Labour Minister. What outlines the Labour Minister had given are not known. In the absence of the Draft Labour Policy it is difficult to comment. The point which is to be communicated to the Ministry of Labour is the long outstanding demand of the restoration of Collective Bargaining right in banking industry. This right has been guaranteed under ILO conventions to which Pakistan is a signatory. The labour policy should contain the bargaining right of the trade unions in banking industry. Contract labour system is a curse. The working class is being exploited under the system. Neither the system ensures the job nor the salary or fringe benefits of the workers. The new Labour Policy should guarantee its abolishment.

ER: How do you foresee the future of banking industry in the present democratic era? HJ: We appreciate and welcome the opening of new banks in private sector. When the news of Mehran Bank in Sindh was made public we hailed the decision. Competition enhances efficiency and business whereas monopoly acts reversely. There should be banking in nationalised and private sectors with hard competition. There may be defects in nationalised banks because of bureaucratic controls. These defects can be rectified and positive reforms could be made. The Board of Directors of the nationalised banks should be independent and Pakistan Banking Council should be dissolved as it has no role to play. In future what we foresee is a large number of private banks and, as the Finance Minister stated, there may be some nationalised banks as well. There will be a competition among private banks on one hand and private and nationalised banks on the other. The banking industry will come out of stalemate. The bank managements should not support any particular business group they should promote all industrial groups of the country whether big or small uniformally to promote economic activity.

We are very optimistic about the future developments on labour front. If our demand of CBA rights is accepted in the new Labour Policy, then in my opinion the Labour-Management relations in banks will further flourish. In short we see a new revolutionary era of Industrial Relations in banking industry.

PHOTO : Habibuddin Junaidi during interview session
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Industrial Relations in Pakistan '91; interview with Habibuddin Junaidi
Author:Raza, Moosi
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:interview
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Employment-oriented labour policy is the need of the hour.
Next Article:Denationalisation policy is extremely conducive for investment.

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