Opposing privatisation, 800,000 bank employees in India strike work (Round-up)

September 24th, 2008 - 10:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) More than 800,000 bank employees from around 50,000 branches across India started a two-day strike Wednesday to oppose privatisation, merger and acquisition of state-owned banks. Reports from various parts of the country said the strike was total, putting bank customers in a fix.

“We had to submit some of our bank statements in order to facilitate the sanctioning of our loan. But we could not do so because of the strike,” said Nishant Jain, a hotelier based in Chandigarh.

“Banking operations have come to a standstill. Once the strike is over, we will sit together and chalk out our future course of action,” Rajen Nagar, national president of All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), told IANS in Kolkata.

The strike has been called by the United Form of Bank Unions (UFBU), the umbrella body of all bank unions.

Among other issues, bank employees are also opposing the amendment of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, which will give equal voting rights to shareholders.

In Gujarat, employees of some private sector banks joined the strike.

“Cheques worth over Rs.1 lakh crore (Rs.1,000 billion or $25 billion) could not be cleared,” claimed Maha Gujarat Bank Employees Association (MBEA) president Dushyant Trivedi.

In Ahmedabad alone, this could be around Rs.100 billion ($2.5 billion), Trivedi estimated.

State Bank of India staff association president K.K. Singh said more than 15,000 branches of 55 nationalised banks went on strike in Uttar Pradesh.

In Maharashtra, nearly 100,000 bank employees from 7,500 branches went on strike, according to All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA) general secretary S. Nagarajan.

In Orissa, more than 50,000 bank employees struck work, and at many branches, accounts holders were seen to return without doing any business as they did not know about the strike.

Private banks and Orissa government-affiliated banks, were open, however.

In Himachal Pradesh, thousands of employees of public sector and regional rural banks participated in the strike.

“We criticise the central government’s move to hand over various functions of public sector banks to private agencies,” Vijay Sharma, a State Bank of India employee told IANS.

In Bangalore, several hundred striking workers staged a rally at Mysore Bank Circle, one of the busiest traffic junctions in the heart of the city.

The strike was also total in Jammu and Kashmir, though cooperative banks and rural banks functioned normally.

In Tripura, over 1,300 bank employees from 125 bank branches struck work, according to Sushobhan Datta Majumder, the UFBU spokesperson in the state.

“None of the demands put forth by the UFBU like pension option, wage revision and compassionate appointment scheme have been resolved,” Majumder said.

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