|Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 pages)|
|8. Computerization and women's employment in India's banking sector|
The interests of women employees have been expressed in different ways. In the early 1980s the Women's Wing of the All India Conference of Bank Officers' Organizations (AICOBOO), open to women officers only, was formed. However the issues that concern them relate to all women employees. According to one of the spokeswomen of the Women's Wing,
There is a pressing need for women to form strong pressure groups to see that the right to education and employment do not remain merely on paper. The problems of working women can be dealt with more effectively through collective action.
The discrimination experienced by women working in banks is mainly in terms of the lack of infrastructural facilities, the transfer policy, and assumptions that women would not be interested in training or in promotions. The Women's Wing of the AICOBOO has been taking up these issues systematically. One outcome of their work has been the charter of demands they submitted to their union confederation. These included:
· Infrastructural facilities such as crèches and day care centres.
· Provision of hostels for working women, accommodation for divorced, separated and widowed women with children.
· Special leave with a lien on service, for up to say five years, to meet certain contingencies specific to women, extending this facility to men also whenever required.
· Provision for a woman with a child less than three years old to work for fewer hours and receive proportionate pay.
· Family pension and voluntary retirement for men and women after twenty years of service.
· Provision for flexi-hours and part-time employment in suitable cases.
· Although maternity leave (12 weeks in all) is regarded as fairly satisfactory, additional provisions required are medical benefits, hospitalization, leave for the purpose of child care, paternity leave for at least ten days, further leave also for those who have to look after an infant in special circumstances.
· Discrimination exists in our laws with regard to women . . . especially with regard to taxation, which needs to be looked into.
The specific demands put forward by the Women's Wing include a uniform transfer policy in all banks for women officers, and a cell to deal with women's issues in every bank's personnel department. They are currently trying to formulate demands relating to training programmes and time off for women to do union work.
Similarly the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) has initiated a women's wing of the union to take up issues specially affecting women. The Reserve Bank of India has a Women's Forum for the same purpose. The unions in the LIC have begun to organize women-only meetings and workshops. The Insurance Employees Association decided in 1991 to organize women employees more effectively, as the number of women employees was increasing day by day, with over 75 per cent of the new recruits being women. The association has demanded crèche facilities, special leave and better working conditions for women, and the removal of hidden discrimination.14
The demands put forward by the Punjab National Bank Employees Union include:
· Inter-region transfers of women on a priority basis.
· Arranging pre-promotion training programmes women who want to take tests relating to promotions.
· Displacement on promotion to be avoided.
· Protection for pregnant women who work on computers.
· Women should be given temporary transfers on request during pregnancy, etc.15
The unions and the management have begun to acknowledge the separate needs of women employees and the specificity of the issues they face. Yet women employees' concerns and aspirations have not been adequately addressed by either. The training programmes organized by management do not include the vast majority of women employees. A 1986 study by the IBA showed that only 20 per cent of staff received some training in any one year (Madhukar, 1986). Officers of the NIBM reported that the situation had not changed since then.
The sessions organized by the unions are at a mass level and do not allow for the much-needed interaction and sharing of experiences. These too are organized fairly erratically. One senior woman employee notes,
Both types of programmes - union and management- seem one-sided rather than multidimensional. In the union workshops and meetings, we are addressed as union members; in the management training programmes we are bank employees. But all of us are much more than that. We are employees, we are women, we are home-makers, we are thinking and feeling human beings, we are ambitious and much more. Training programmes need to keep this perspective in mind.16
Women feel the need for different types of inputs too. In the wake of liberalization and globalization and the changes in Indian banking, they want to know what is happening in the banking and finance sectors in other countries in terms of women's employment and organizing, what the experiences of women in those countries have been and what strategies they have used. Many women employees, including women officers, also feel that they would like to know and interact with women in other sectors too. As a young insurance officer said, 'What is happening to women nationally is of concern to us and is going to affect us.'
Such interconnections between the women's wings of the banking and insurance unions and the women's movement in the country and outside have begun to be explored recently, and a few women employees at all levels have begun participating in women's movement conferences. However, there is as yet no reciprocal interest from the women's movement in the concerns of employees in banking and finance. Developments in this area would also strengthen the links between the various forums and organizations that represent the interests of women bank and insurance employees. This would also necessarily include a wider forum for national and international solidarity for the exchange of information, strategies and forms of organization.