India’s banking operations hit by nationwide staff strike (Roundup)

August 5th, 2011 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

State Bank of India Mumbai, Aug 5 (IANS) Majority of banking transactions across India were hit Friday with some one million staff striking work to protest proposals to divest government stake in these state-run institutions, besides to demand a host of welfare schemes.

“Nearly one million bank employees in state run, private sector as well as foreign banks struck work today. The nationwide response to the strike call was good,” the convener of the United Forum of Bank Unions, C.H. Venkatachalam, told IANS in Chennai.

“Cheque clearing operations have also been impacted,” said the senior office bearer of the forum, which is an umbrella body representing nine unions in the banking industry, but he admitted that some private banks were functioning.

“ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank are functioning. We do not have a presence in them,” he added. The inter-bank and intra-bank transactions and cheque clearances were a standstill, officials said.

Though people wanting to get bank drafts and other services that entailed going to banks were left disappointed, the cash withdrawals operations, although delayed in many places, did continue thanks to the automated teller machines (ATMs).

“I had to wait for over 40 minutes before my turn came to access the ATM,” said Gaurav Mehrotra, a resident of Lucknow. “There was a huge queue at almost all the ATMs in my locality,” Mehrotra, who has an account with Bank of Baroda, told IANS.

The 26 state-run commercial banks in the country, led by the State Bank of India (SBI) and its associates, together hold 52.5 percent of the aggregate deposits and figure among the largest employers in the world.

The employees decided to proceed on the day-long strike after their talks Thursday with Financial Services Secretary D.K. Mittal as well as the top brass of the Indian Banks Association, the umbrella body for bank managements, remained inconclusive.

Sushobhan Datta Majumder, one of the spokespersons for the union, told IANS in Agartala that the strike was particularly aimed at the amendments in banking laws that were proposed to be made during the current session of parliament.

“The proposed amendments are aimed at mergers, acquisitions and the outsourcing of even routine activities of our banks, and allowing foreign banks and investors such activity and managements,” Majumder said.

“Our strike is not for the interests of employees alone. It is also to protest the anti-national policies being pursued by the central government and to protect our banks from foreign control,” Majumder added.

“We find the government’s equity in public sector banks is being diluted and reduced, and consequently, the private capital in public sector banks is increasing,” said Harvinder Singh of the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.

“We demand that public sector banks should not be privatised and the government’s equity in our state-run banks should not be reduced. Do not avail World Bank loan to capitalise public sector banks.”

Other demands include: no merger of state-run banks, no outsourcing of permanent banking jobs to private sector, resumption of recruitment in right earnest, jobs to family members on compassionate grounds and framing of guidelines for housing, car and other loans.

The union officials said they will meet Aug 10 in Bangalore to decide on the next course of action.

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