Banking services hit as state-owned bank employees go on strike

Cash transaction and clearing services across the country were hit as most of the employees in public sector banks went on a day-long strike opposing government policies towards the sector.

New Delhi/Mumbai: Cash transaction and clearing services across the country were hit as most of the employees in public sector banks went on a day-long strike opposing government policies towards the sector.

Public sector bank branches wore a nearly deserted look with only officers attending work and with almost negligible footfall.

All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam claimed the strike was "a complete success as clearing houses remained totally paralysed" with unions of Reserve Bank and SBI participating in the strike.

However, leading private sector lenders such as ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank and foreign banks functioned as usual as their staff did not participate in the strike.

Similarly, new generation public sector bank IDBI Bank too said it was not impacted as employees are not unionised.

Officers in most of the public sector banks did not participate in the strike call.

Clearing operation volumes in the Mumbai region came down to almost a third to 2.25 lakh cheques against an average of 7.7 lakh cheques per day, an RBI official said. The total value came down drastically to Rs 1,500 crore against Rs 3,000-4,000 crore in a normal day, the official added.

Of the 95 banks which participate in clearing operations in the region, only 1 abstained from the strike, the RBI official said.

The strike call was a part of nationwide general strike call given by 11 central trade unions, including INTUC, BMS, AITUC, CITU, HMS and BMS, opposing some policies of the central government.

"Cash transactions, cheque clearing operations, foreign exchange operations, treasury operations, government transactions, etc, could not be carried out due to the strike," Venkatachalam claimed.

According to AIBEA, about 8,00,000 employees affiliated to the seven unions participated in the strike.

There are about 87,000 branches of public sector banks across the country. The state-owned lenders control about 75 percent of banking business.

According to a senior official of Bank of India, cash transaction has been affected as there was inadequate staff to attend to such functions. Besides, the clearing operation of most of the banks got affected.

"The strike is against government's policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. We demand the review of anti-people policies," Venkatachalam said.

The bank unions are also protesting against unilateral imposition of Khandelwal Committee recommendations with regard to human resources issues and outsourcing of jobs. Their demand also include enactment of stringent and effective measures to recover bad loans.

Although the unions claimed that operations were badly hit with employees going on strike, the managements maintained that only some clerical staff did not report on duty.

"Their (unions) demands needs to be examined...from management side whatever their demands are those have to seen," Union Bank India Chairman and Managing Director M V Nair said.

Union Bank of India said its business as usual, as only a few branches have downed their shutters initially but have soon been reopened.

Meanwhile, six insurance unions, representing public sector life and general insurance sectors, have also extended support to the strike call.

Insurance behemoth LIC said all the offices and branches in Mumbai were open and most of the staff were present.

Besides, an official from the New India Assurance Company also said there has not been much impact on operations. The branches are working normal as there is over 60 percent attendance from across the spectrum.