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PBEF to resist privatisation of banks.

HABIBUDDIN JUNAIDI (48) is an Arts Graduate. He is the Secretary General, Pakistan Banks Employees Federation, the largest white collar trade union of the country. 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. Economic Review interviewed Mr. Junaidi on the incoming 6th Wage Board Award and the developments likely to take place in Banks and on labour front. Following are the Excerpts!

Economic Review: How will you comment on Labour-Management relations in Pakistan with special reference to Bank Employees.

Habibuddin Junaidi: History of Labour-Management relations is not encouraging. At frequent junctures of history there has been confrontation between the workers and various governments and managements. Our's is a feudal and tribe oriented society. These institutions are always anti-democratic and do not believe in dialogue. Labour-Management relations revolve around dialogue, tolerance and live and let live. Ironically the managements consider workers and their representatives as undemocratic, thumbling block in way of industrial growth and against the system. In case of banks the situation is different. Nationalised Banks are under government control. Labour-Management relations prior to nationalisation were different with that of the present system. After nationalisation an understanding has been developed gradually between the workers and the management. We solve our problems across the table realising difficulties of each other. But the situation in private organisations is quite contrary. The employer's behavior is similar to what was 40 years back. In most cases scientific progress and advancement in technology could not affect employers approach. However, I am quite optimistic. Advancement in technology would enlighten the employer and would improve labour-management relations.

ER. Are you satisfied with the existing wage structure and fringe benefits in Bank and financial institutions.

HJ. I am satisfied to a greater extent but not in totality. A tangible change is needed in the existing wage and fringe benefit structure. In India banks are operating in private as well as in public sector. Wage structure there is determined by Wage Commission Award which has equal representation of workers, management and the government. Moreover, Banks in India have been classified in three categories according to profitability and their wages and fringe benefits are determined accordingly. I demand that system in Pakistan. This would not only enhance efficiency but would also generate a sense of competition in banking industry.

ER. You have boycotted the proceeding of Wage Commission. What would be your future line of action.

HJ. No trade union could fulfill industrial obligations without collective bargaining right. Ignoring ILO conventions ratified by Pakistan, unanimous decision of Tripartite Labour Conference 1987, and its own manifesto undertakings the present regime constituted sixth wage commission. This commission has no representation of workers whatsoever. So Pakistan Banks Employees Federation has no option except to boycott commission's proceedings. In case the commission announces the unilateral Award it would not be acceptable to workers. And as such the possibility of strong resentment against the Award cannot be ruled out. Though we have been struggling hard for collective bargaining right for last 15 years but all went unheeded. Even the elected government has disappointed us. Under circumstances we strongly demand the restoration of collective bargaining right of trade unions in banking industry by amending IRO 69 or the Wage Commission should be Tripartite in letter and spirit. We do not want to create hurdles for the democratic government which took over charge after great sacrifices. Simultaneously we want to make it clear that we would not compromise on genuine rights of the workers. Our struggle would be against the undemocratic decisions to make the present set-up more democratic. By that way, we believe that we would promote real democracy in the country for which the present government is hardly striving for.

ER. Is the working environments ideal in your organisation, if not what measures do you suggest to improve the working conditions.

HJ. The working conditions are not too ideal. It is the prime responsibility of the management to provide healthy environment of working. However, we also feel our own responsibility in this direction. Management has to play its role. For better working conditions Management and the representative of trade unions should form joint committees and the implementation of their recommendations would certainly achieve positive results

ER. It is generally believe that entire bank business is run by bank mafia that is the workers representative of banks union. Your comment!

HJ. This is for the first time when I am hearing the terminology of bank mafia. I don't find truth in it. The representatives of workers work for the betterment of the employees with utmost zeal apart from creating further sense of discipline among them. The management looks after the bank business. So there exists no such mafia in banks.

ER. There is a move to privatise the banking system by unloading shares in the stock market. How will it effect the banking system as a whole.

HJ. I personally don't subscribe the idea of privatisation. This is not opposition for the sake of opposition. I have logic and argument behind my belief. In January 1974, Shaheed Bhutto nationalised 15 banks except National Bank which was operating under government control. Take out the Annual Reports of these banks prior to nationalisation. Except two or three rest of all were at threshold of liquidation or undergoing losses. State Bank had to nominate administrators in various banks. These factors were indicative of the fact the private sector failed to run banking industry in Pakistan. In fact industrialist at that time promoted their own family business or their groups through banking. They delivered no good to the masses. Nationalisation was a progressive step. There might be a possibility of some service deterioration. But you can not judge it on isolation. Banking Industry is a part of the system. If system is defective its reflection would be on all spheres of life. Banking industry is no exception. Denationalisation or reverse of history is no solution. We should find out the snags in present system and honestly try to rectify them. In past loans amounting to billions of rupees were written off on political ground. It was not the fault of banking system. It was the defect of the political system. First amended political system then sincerely concentrate on banking industry for improvement and reforms. We should not take the risk of handing over financial affairs to private people with gloomy past. I am also of the opinion that the foreign banks in Pakistan should also be nationalised. The present banking system is not people oriented. Real depositors are not allowed meagre loans for motorbike etc. Industrialist with no deposits draw substantial loans. Radical changes are needed in the existing system to facilitate the depositors.

ER. Do you expect any new labour legislation, if so what recommendation do you suggest for a balanced labour policy acceptable to both employee and employer.

HJ. Despite undertakings by responsible high ups labour policy could not be announced till date. Reasons of delay is still unknown. Under 11 years of Zia rule no labour policy was given. Present government should compete legislation without further delay as it is leaving bad impression. The workers in the private sector are hard hit by contract system. There must be some legislation to abolish it which PPP has also pledged in its manifesto. PPP should not compromise on this point at the cost of workers. Workers and peasants are the backbone of the party not the industrialists or feudals. Secondly there should be legislation to restore collective bargaining right of unions in banks and financial institutions. In short there should be visible changes and progressive improvement in labour laws to benefit workers.

ER. How do you see the present democratic era with special reference to workers.

HJ. Democratic process in the country was restored after a valiant struggle by PPP. The role of other political forces and progressive trade unions was no less than others. In fact it was a common struggle of all democracy loving people against the tyranny and autocratic role of Gen. Zia. With an elected government in the office, people hold high hopes. This is true that the present government took charge under difficult conditions which were further aggravated by unpathetic opposition. When things are like that PPP has to mend its fences and bring radical changes in its policies to be close to masses.

ER. There are rumours about the liquidations of some banks and shifting to their headquarters from Karachi. What is the factual position.

HJ. We are also knowing about it through news media. There is no need to shift bank headquarters to Islamabad or anywhere else. The bank have already been decentralised. Provincial bank headquarters are working in all four provinces with considerable administrative powers. Bank headquarters are operating in Karachi since the inception of Pakistan. Pakistan Banks Employees Federation would not allow shifting. We would give every possible resistance. There is not truth in the story of liquidation of banks. If there is financial incompetence in any bank it could be overcome through managerial skill.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan Banks Employees Federation
Author:Raza, Moosi
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:interview
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:Labour policy must be the link between needs and aspirations of national economy.
Next Article:Labour management relations in Pakistan - 1990s.

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