Bank unions to go on two-day strike from Wednesday

The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) has decided to go ahead with the two-day strike in support of its demand as the reconciliation talks called by Chief Labour Commission in the morning have failed.

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.

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.

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.

"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."

According to Ashwani Rana, Secretary General, National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW), an affiliate of UFBU, "talks and reconciliation (at Chief Labour Commissioner) have failed. Government and IBA have not given any response to our demands. All India bank strike stands for August 22 and 23."

Allahabad Bank, in a filing to the BSE said, "the issues and demands are of industry level and strike call is also given at industry level by UFBU. Therefore, if the strike takes place it would affect working of all banks."

In a similar filing, Indian Bank said, "a section of the bank's employees may take part in the proposed strike...In which case, the normal functioning of branches/offices of the bank may get affected."

Meanwhile, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said reluctance of the IBA and the government to take positive steps on various issues "have compelled us to resort to agitation".

Talking to reporters in Chennai, C M Baskaran, Convenor, Tamil Nadu UFBU, said, "The government is going ahead with the banking reforms and policies aimed at diluting the public sector banking in India. Banking Laws Amendment Bill is being brought in the Lok Sabha on August 22 despite our protest."

The Banking Laws Amendment Bill, 2011, which in pending in Parliament, contains provisions such as raising of shareholders' voting rights from 10 percent to 26 percent in private banks and supersession of bank boards.

The Centre-appointed Khandelwal panel on human resources (HR) had suggested a slew of measures, including more outsourcing of non-core activities in a time-bound manner.

Also, the standard of recruitment, including methodology and content for testing, has to be raised. Testing of computer skills will be mandatory for both officers and clerks, the panel had recommended.

The Khandelwal committee had also suggested that the minimum qualification for clerks and sub-staff should be graduation and class 10, respectively.

The unions which have 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 Unions.