The latest decision from SBI fumes over 70,000 employees of associate banks of the State Bank of India. During the phase of demonetization in November 2016, all these employees worked till the wee hours to meet the demands of people waiting outside the bank for deposit and withdrawal.
The bank staff had been promised, "overtime compensation" by the employer banks for the "extra hours" they worked post-demonetization. The 70,000 officers and employees of banks like State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore and State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur - these all merged with the SBI on April 1, 2017 - got the compensation but in the latest move from the bank the employees are being asked to "return the compensation for extra work"
The SBI has issued a communication to all the zonal headquarters saying that only "its employees" and not those, who were employees of the E-Ab or erstwhile associate banks were supposed to get the money for extra work during the note-ban window from it.
According to an India Today report, the State Bank of India has instructed its various zones to examine the recovery of the "compensation" given to officers of its erstwhile associate banks. The SBI communication states that compensation was meant exclusively for those, who were working in SBI branches.
It states that as the erstwhile associate banks had not merged with the SBI at the time of demonetization, the responsibility to pay the staff compensation for overtime lies with the five employer banks and not the SBI. These five banks were autonomous entities back then, the SBI argues.
The communication says, "The claim related to the period before the merger of e-Abs (erstwhile associate banks) should have been dealt by e-Abs at the material time and we have no record of any commitment to pay the same." It adds that instruction issued earlier this year for payment of compensation was only in respect of those, who worked in SBI branches.
The stern communication asks for a review and "examine under what circumstances approval was given for the payment of compensation to the officers of e-ABs." It even lays down that appropriate action may be initiated against the erring officials.
The compensation was for working beyond office hours. Lakhs of employees worked for three-eight hours extra daily to meet the chaotic rush between November 16 and December 30 in 2016. The compensation for officers was as high as Rs 30,000 and other staff around Rs 17,000. It was paid from what is called the "out of pocket expense between March and May this year."
Now, the powerful bank unions are unhappy. They claim that the recovery order was totally unfair as a merger automatically means a takeover of both the assets and liabilities of the merging entities. The grouse is that compensation was due from December 31, 2016, and didn't happen for almost year.
India Today tried to contact SBI for its views on the issue but the largest bank in India didn't respond. However, a senior official, on the condition of anonymity, said, "The compensation was paid erroneously. Salaries and other dues of the employees of the erstwhile associate banks, which merged with the SBI in 2017, were not the liability of the SBI in March-May 2018. That's why a scrutiny has been ordered."