HBL admin training gun on clerical staff
January 21, 2011
With its liquid assets running in trillions, Habib Bank was forcibly privatized during the Musharraf era for just billions. While rules and regulations were publicly flouted with brazen audacity, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz was busy favoring his blue-eyed boys. The whole process of privatization emerged as a major scandal in the history of Pakistan. Those who benefitted from privatization are today sitting pretty, but the clerical staff of the bank is being victimized by the administrative cadre.
The president of Habib Bank since 1999, Zakir Safdar, has been responsible for some of the extreme downsizing of staff and forced closure of various branches. A circular released on 9th September 2010 said that the administration had made some amendments to services rule No 18, renaming it as 18(C):
‘Termination of services’: The justification for this rule was given as a bid to determine the salary of clerical staff based on the performance report of the administration. A regular table of category based on the criteria of A, B, C, D has been formed, and any employee falling in the D category will not be given pay raise. Besides, any employee falling in D category would be refused any further raise and in case of twice Ds would be terminated from services.
This formula, which goes into force from 01st Jan 2011 as announced by the bank administration, fails to deliberate on the transparent procedural aspect of the rule and has been viewed with great concern and apprehensions by the CBA of the bank. The CBA takes the stance that this blatant partial amendment was aimed at forcing out as many employees as possible. Habib Bank Workers Front of Pakistan CBA expressed their deep reservations about the issue to the Bank Human Resources head in its letter dated 22nd Sept after 12 days of issuance of the bank circular. Defending the rights of employees, the letter contends that the bank administration had no rights to legislate such partial amendments. Besides, there was a two-year accord between the bank administration and employees that before making any new rules and regulations, the administration will have to take the CBA into confidence. The CBA strongly demanded termination of the amendment, as it was in contravention of law and standing orders ordinance 1968.
However, the administration has reportedly turned a deaf ear to these demands, prompting a fresh appeal by the CBA, which also went unattended. The CBA filed a case over the issue and succeeded in obtaining a stay order against the bank administration up to 22nd Jan 2010, while the administration was also ordered to present its stance. Deliberating over the issue, the head of CBA and chairman of All-Pakistan Trade Union Organization Habibuddin Junaidi said that discrimination against the employees was continuing, as downsizing was the ultimate goal of the HBL administration. He also said that the bank administration had not appointed clerical staff for the past 15 years.
He held former president Pervez Musharraf responsible for introducing anti-labor laws in the form of IRO besides addition of Article 27-B in the earlier Banking Ordinance 1962, in 1997, which tended to restrict the limitations of trade unions of banks. Similarly, while defying ILO Convention, the HBL also finished outside (employment) quota of 25% and also added article 2-A in Services Tribunal Act 1973, thus depriving the employees of referring to the labor tribunal courts. The current government had terminated all anti-labor laws save for article 27-B. The banking cartel was strongly resisting any termination of this article, which could be its deathbed.
Junaidi also informed that it was discriminating that new staff was being appointed from a third party source. He also disclosed that 30,000 employees had been forced by termination during the past decade, while 500 foreign branches of the banks had been closed. He also termed the past era of Shaukat Aziz the most volatile, as Shaukat Aziz had been imported with a foreign agenda, according to which he had facilitated the policies and agenda of World Bank and IMF and was also being responsible for unemployment of 800,000 unfortunate people.
He also disclosed that by implementing this notorious section, Sartaj Aziz, former finance minister in Nawaz Sharif’s regime, was also responsible for unemploying thousands. He lauded the government for ending the notorious Services Tribunal 2-A, and termination ordinances, but was apprehensive of the fact that trade unions of banking sector were on the verge of extinction.
On the flip side of the coin, the spokesman HBL Shujaat Ali Baig insists that amendment to the services rules is in accordance with the law. Declaring that the bank has no intention of downsizing, he said the administration would present its stance on the forum of NIRC (National Industrial Relations Commission).