No VRS for state-owned insurance employees

No VRS – that's what the four public-sector general insurance companies have proclaimed. The General (Insurers' Public) Sector Insurance Association (Gipsa) – a body similar to the Indian Banks' Association – has made it clear to the industry unions that its constituents are not inclined to introduce a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for its employees.

Gipsa had a meeting with various union bodies to streamline and strengthen the four government general insurers, which follow the payscale pattern of nationalised banks to some extent. Earlier, Gipsa also had talks with development officers' associations.

"Our focus is to achieve growth through profitability," remarks Mr. K.N. Bhandari, chairman and managing director, New India Assurance Company Ltd. and chairman, Gipsa.

At its recent meeting with the class III and IV unions, Gipsa had put forth various important proposals, including working in shifts, merger of offices, retraining and redeployment of employees and shift to a six-day week system.

Reacting to the proposals, the All-India Insurance Employees' Association (Aiiea) said the four companies should be merged into one and meet competition with might. While the union agrees for the proposal to have a three-tier organisational structure –– a head office, a regional office and an operating office – it strictly expressed its opposition to "forced" transfers. The Gipsa has, in this regard, recommended offering incentives to employees to agree for transfers.

As regards the proposal to change the number of working days to six days a week, Aiiea says it has an 'open mind' on the issue. However, it wants the companies to work out the ratio of cost and benefit before deciding on the issue. It may be pointed out that some private insurers have only a five-day-a-week work schedule. The union is strictly opposed to the idea of working in shifts.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Mr. Bhandari has been elected as chairman of the Non-life Insurers' Council at its recent meeting in Chennai. The council also deliberated on regulatory issues like corporate agents, brokers, third-party administrators for health insurance and the ways and means to grow the rural insurance market.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the proposal of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) to have brokers in the general insurance field has been kept in abeyance for two years.