Bank strike hits business in Karnataka

Bengaluru: A day-long strike Wednesday by over 50,000 employees of state-run banks crippled transactions and customer services in about 10,000 branches across Karnataka.

Bengaluru: A day-long strike Wednesday by over 50,000 employees of state-run banks crippled transactions and customer services in about 10,000 branches across Karnataka.

"The response to our strike call is overwhelming as all employees of 27 public sector banks and a dozen old-generation private banks are participating in the strike called because our long-pending demands, including wage revision, have not been met," United Forum of Bank Unions' (UFBU) Karnataka general secretary A. N. Krishnamurthy told IANS here.

The UFBU is an umbrella organisation of five employees unions and four officers' associations of state-run banks. All nine unions under its aegis have given the all-India bank strike call.

Accusing the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) of thwarting discussions on the wage revision going on since January 2013, Krishnamurthy said negotiations could not progress much for even an acceptable wage hike due to the indifference of the banks' managements.

"The 11 percent increase in wages does not benefit us in face of inflation and we are facing difficulties owing to work pressure and severe staff shortage," the trade union leader said.

The striking employees, including hundreds of women staff members, staged a sit-in demo near State Bank of Mysore in the city centre and raised slogans against managements and the central government for the IBA's callous attitude towards their demands.

"In spite of staff shortage, we have cooperated with managements in steering the government's various welfare schemes like 'Jan Dhan' for financial inclusion," Krishnamurthy said.

"Though the unions sought 30 percent wage increase in view of high inflation and rising cost of living, the IBA offered up to 11 percent. We are ready to agree for 20 percent hike in our wages, which have not been revised since November 2012," Krishnamurthy said.

Besides wage revision, the unions are also demanding suitable compensation for the risks and responsibilities that have increased in the banking sector due to competition and workload.

"In the absence of overtime allowance, the IBA should regulate our working hours and make us work only five days a week on rotation as in the case of central government employees," All India Bank Employees Association general secretary K.P. Karanth said while addressing the striking employees.

The strike, however, has not affected cash withdrawals from the banks' ATMs across the city and state.

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