New Delhi/Mumbai: A section of the public sector banking employees will go on two-day all-India strike from Wednesday to protest against financial sector reforms and outsourcing of jobs.
"The strike is on since this morning. Nearly 10 lakh employees are participating in it. This includes 24 public- sector banks, 12 private banks and 6 foreign banks," All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said.
He also said that ATM machines will work until they have the cash and thereafter those services will also be impacted.
The strike has been called against government's policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
Bank unions are demanding stringent and effective measures to recover bad loans.
"Strike is going on normally, demonstration has started from10.30 AM. All the nine unions are participating in the strike," said Rakesh Agarwal, General Secretary, SBI Officers Association.
Bank unions have been demanding pension revision, housing loan revision, 5-day working week and human resource related issues, Agarwal said.
What are the Demands?
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine unions of employees and officers of PSU banks, said that it has decided to go ahead with the strike following failure of reconciliation talks between their representatives and the IBA.
The banking unions are protesting against banking sector reforms and unilateral implementation of the Khandelwal committee report on human resources management in PSU banks.
There are about 87,000 branches of public sector banks, employing over 10 lakh people. The PSU banks, which operate 63,000 ATMs, control about 75 percent banking business in the country.
According to reports, operations like deposit, withdrawal as well as clearing are affected in public sector banks, including the largest lender State Bank of India, due to the strike.
However, in the private sector, operations were normal in ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank and foreign banks.
Private banks to work
Private sector banks and ATMs, however, will continue to work, Indian Banks Association (IBA) said, adding the impact of the two-day strike will be minimal on consumers.
"It is not that the entire banking system will be on strike, the private banks will be working. The normal public will face minimum inconvenience because of the ATMs, which are outsourced to private companies. People will get cash as required as the machines will get replenished," IBA chief executive K Ramakrishnan said.
There are about 87,000 branches of public sector banks employing over 10 lakh personnel. The PSU banks, which operate 63,000 ATMs, control about 75 percent of banking business in the country.
The officers and other executive staff will keep branches running and ensure minimal impact of the strike, Ramakrishnan said, adding "clearing process can get affected but the effort will be to keep the electronic processing running."
Bank unions on strike
The unions which had given the strike call include All India Bank Employees Association, All India Bank Officers Confederation, National Confederation of Bank Employees, All India Bank Officers Officers Association, Bank Employees Federation of India, India National Bank Employees Federation, Indian National Bank Officers Congress, National Organisation of Bank Workers and National Organisation of Bank Officers are part of the United Forum of Bank Union.
Strike in Mumbai
In Mumbai, there was marginal impact of the strike.
SBI said it is too early to assess the impact on operations as the headquarters has not received any feedback from the branches.
An official of the Corporation Bank said employees belonging to the striking unions are absent from work, impacting the operations.
Union Bank, Central Bank and Bank of India said their branches have recorded thin attendance so far.
Old private sector banks like Federal and Dhanalaxmi Bank also said that their branches, being run by managers of Grade IV and below, are impacted due to the strike.
These banks typically have around half of their branches run by lower grade officers, who are part of the National Federation which is striking.
Strike in Punjab, Haryana
Meanwhile, banking transactions came to a halt in public sector banks in Punjab and Haryana, although private bank like HDFC, ICICI continued to operate.
The impact of the strike was visible on the industrial sectors of both Punjab and Haryana as industry representatives fumed over hampering of their business activities due to the two-day long strike by bank employees.
Industry representatives, particularly of the MSME sector, said they could not arrange funds for working capital requirements.
"The slowdown in the economy coupled with sluggish demand has already hit the industrial sector. Now, the strike will add to our woes. It is unthinkable to carry out any financial transaction without banks," a Ludhiana based industrialist N Bhamra said.
Due to the strike, cheques worth several crores of rupees remained uncleared in the public sector banks. Several banks' asset recovery branches have even postponed the auction of loan defaulters' properties.
Although customers who were aware of the strike call have managed transactions accordingly, many others visited banks only to find the branches closed.
According to reports, striking bank employees are carrying out protest rallies and holding demonstrations at several places in Punjab and Haryana.
"We will not allow the Centre to carry out the proposed banking reforms and implement Khandelwal committee report which recommended for outsourcing of non-core activities,"Punjab Bank Employees' Federation, Secretary, Naresh Gaur said.
He said bank branches had been locked from outside to prevent the entry of any bank officer.
"Our intention is not to harass our customers by observing the strike. But the Union government does not listen to our demands which is why we resort to go on strike," Gaur said.
Bank service in Tamil Nadu
The banking services were also hit in Tamil Nadu, which has about 7,000 public sector bank branches with about 70,000 employees. The striking employees held demonstrations across the state.
According to C M Bhaskaran, Convenor, Tamil Nadu United Forum of Bank Unions, the government is going ahead with banking reforms and policies aimed at "diluting" the public sector banks.
"Banking Laws Amendment Bill is being brought in the Lok Sabha despite our protest", he said.
The unions are also seeking settlement of their pending demands and an end to "arbitrary guidelines" of human resource issues, freeze on outsourcing of bank jobs, a hold over banking sector reforms and non-closure of rural branches.