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Strike called off, SBI staff get their way

New Delhi, April 9: State Bank employees today called off their weeklong strike after reaching an agreement with the management on higher pension. They will return to work tomorrow.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram said the management had informed the government about an agreement with the union representing the striking employees.

P.K. Patnaik, the All-India SBI Employees Federation secretary, said: “We have reached an agreement. The pension cut-off has been revised.”

Under the settlement, SBI employees will get pension equivalent to 50 per cent of their last drawn salary up to a ceiling of Rs 21,040 a month, or Rs 10,520.

Employees, whose last drawn salary is more than Rs 21,040 per month, will be entitled to a monthly pension of 40 per cent, subject to a minimum of Rs 10,520.

Under the existing rules, they were getting a pension of 50 per cent of their last drawn salary up to a ceiling of Rs 8,500, which is Rs 4,250 a month.

“The talks were held in the national capital today. They were kind enough to respond to my invitation midnight last night,” Chidambaram said after a marathon meeting between the unions, management and finance ministry officials.

“The earlier cut-off limit for pension was based on the pay scales of 1992. Today, both sides have quite correctly adjusted the pension to the new pay scale,” Chidambaram said.

He did not say what the financial burden of the settlement would be on the bank. “This is within the capacity of SBI. We are only readjusting the cut-off point.”

Chidambaram called the meeting after the employees and the management failed to arrive at an agreement during talks in Mumbai on Saturday night. The settlement was preceded by hectic negotiations, with the finance minister earlier in the day asking senior officials of his ministry to “facilitate talks” between the union and the bank management.

Chidambaram had said in the morning that SBI was “unique” as it was the only bank whose employees received three retirement benefits ' gratuity, provident fund and pension. Others get gratuity and provident fund or pension.

“Similarly, employees of public sector enterprises receive only two benefits. Therefore, any comparison of retirement benefits between SBI employees and other employees must keep in mind the fact that SBI employees receive three retirement benefits.

“Any revision of the pension formula in the case of SBI should not give rise to competitive demands from employees of other nationalised banks or public sector enterprises,” the finance minister said.

How he would stop these demands from being raised is not known.

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