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Bank of Baroda Employees On Strike, Talks Collapse

At least 150 Bank of Baroda Uganda (BOBU) employees on Monday morning went on a sit-down strike demanding a 20percent pay rise. The striking workers say they were promised a pay rise two years ago, but to-date it has not been delivered.

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At least 150 Bank of Baroda Uganda (BOBU) employees on Monday morning went on a sit-down strike demanding a 20percent pay rise.

 

At the BOBU head offices on Kampala Road, workers were seen standing outside the bank, with the banking hall literary short of tellers. The striking workers say they were promised a pay rise two years ago, but to-date it has not been delivered. Additionally, the workers say that the management had agreed to give them 9percent pay rise and not between 18 to 20percent as earlier requested through their union.

 

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Another employee says the strike action will continue if they don’t get what they want.

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The workers premise their demand on a letter purportedly written by one B. Srinivasan, the General Manager Operations at the international headquarters of Bank of Baroda, in Mumbai, India. The letter, which Uganda Radio Network couldn’t authenticate, was written as far back as 5th September 2012, and recommends an increment of 20percent effective 2012. It is this letter that The National Union of Clerical Professional Commercial and Technical Employees is using to negotiate with the management of the bank. Yusufu Kagumire, from Katera & Kagumire Advocates, the lawyers of the bank, told the striking workers he had not seen such a letter and that he needed more time to find-out its authenticity.

 

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BOBU is Uganda’s 8th largest bank with assets of Shillings 709 billion. In 2012, it also made a profit of Shillings 29billion. On average, according to employees who talked to URN, they earn a gross salary of between 950,000 and 1.3 million shillings.

 

Listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE), Baroda has had three Managing Directors in three years. Despite the strike action, the share price remained the same. Today, Birbal Singh had arrived on his first day as Managing Director, only to be welcomed by striking workers. Rajesh Kumar, who has been the Acting Managing Director, told the striking workers that the new Managing Director needs to first settle in before he can address the salary increment issue. The employees however rejected this, and insisted on an immediate increment.

 

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As a result of the sit-down strike, the bank was reduced to a thin workforce.  They were forced to issue a rather poorly worded statement that: “due to a surprise Darhana or Strike by few of our staff members, we will not be able to run a fullyfledge [sic] of the branch. Hence only skeleton services will be available today.” At other branches like the one along Jinja Road, only one teller was on hand to serve customers.

In August 2011, MPs and Labor Unionists petitioned President Yoweri Museveni, accusing Bank of Baroda of exploiting its workers, but it yielded no result.  Prior to that, the bank was still accused of paying its workers poorly. 

 

The union representatives said they were now still waiting for communication from the bank for further negotiations, if any.  Wilson Usher Owere, Chairperson, The National Union of Trade Unions (NOTU) said that the bank management is still taking workers for granted.

 

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