More than 70,000 employees of associate banks of the State Bank of India are angry. Banking staff worked overtime post-demonetisation to meet the demands of long queues of people waiting to exchange old notes with the new ones.
The bank staff had been promised "overtime compensation" by the employer banks for the "extra hours" they worked post-demonetisation. 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 now they 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 own employees" and not those, who were employees of the erstwhile associate banks (E-Ab), were supposed to get the money for extra work.
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 working with the SBI branches.
It states that as the erstwhile associate banks had not merged with the SBI at the time of demonetisation, 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 argued.
The communication says, "The claim related to the period prior to 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 to those, who worked in SBI branches.
The SBI has asked for a review to find under what circumstances was the approval given for the payment of compensation to the officers of e-ABs. In fact, the SBI plans to take appropriate action against erring officials.
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 amount was Rs 30,000 for officers and Rs 17,000 for other staff. It was paid from what is called the "out-of-pocket expense between March and May this year".
The SBI's decision has not gone down well with bank unions. They claim that the recovery order was totally unfair as a merger meant a takeover of both the assets and liabilities of the merging entities. Moreover, the unions were upset that the compensation was due from December 31, 2016, but was not sanctioned for almost a year.
The SBI has not responded to India Today's queries on the matter. 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."