Day-long strike hits banking operations

New Delhi, Dec 18 : Banking operations were hit Wednesday as members of an umbrella employee union of 27 state-run banks went on a day-long strike across the country, demanding better wages and working conditions.

Even though ATMs were functional, operations like branch cash withdrawals, deposits and cheque clearances were particularly affected.

The impact of the strike was more evident in the eastern and southern sectors.

The strike was called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), the umbrella organisation of five employees unions and four officers unions of state-run banks, which is demanding immediate wage revision and is also protesting against the ongoing banking sector reforms.

The bank unions called the strike after rejecting Indian Banks' Association's (IBA) offer of a 5 percent salary hike. According to UFBU, the last wage settlement in the banking sector expired in October 2012. However, the discussions on a revised settlement since one year have been inconclusive.

The strike hit banking services hard in the northeastern region. Shutters of almost all the ATMs in the region remained down.

"Over 10,000 bank employees of over 2,000 branches of nationalised banks in the seven northeastern states took part in the countrywide strike." said UFBU spokesman Nikhil Das.

"The strike has been a total success all over the country. All over the country about 4 million cheques worth about Rs. 32,000 crores could not be processed by the clearing houses," C H Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) told IANS from Chennai.

Refuting IBA's contention that banks cannot afford to give higher wage revision and hence offered an increase of Rs.1575 crore, AIBEA said: "Everyone knows that employees are not responsible for bad loans in the banks. Nobody is preventing the banks to take stringent measures to recover the bad loans."

"The total wage bill for the entire 800,000 employees of the public sector banks for the year ended 31-3-2012 was Rs.56,000 crore. But Rs.38,000 crore were provided from profits toward bad loans in addition to actual write off of Rs. 27,000 crore", the AIBEA added.

--IANS (Posted on 18-12-2013)

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