Banking operations across India were hit Monday as members of an umbrella trade union of 47 banks began a two-day strike, opposing the proposed banking sector reforms and demanding immediate revision in wages.
Over a million bank employees and officers working in 27 public sector banks, including the State Bank of India, 12 private and eight foreign banks and regional rural banks struck work, the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) said.
UFBU is the umbrella organisation of five employee unions and four officer unions of state-run banks. All nine unions under its aegis have given the strike call.
Even though ATMs were functional, operations like branch cash withdrawals, deposits and cheque clearances were particularly affected.
“All over the country, about 10 crore cheques worth Rs.7,40,000 crore could not be cleared. In Chennai clearing house, about 90 lakh cheques worth about Rs.64,000 crore could not be processed in clearing,” C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), told IANS from Chennai.
“The instrument value and number would go up further tomorrow when the strike continues the second day,” he added.
With the strike slated to continue Tuesday, customers face the prospect of more ATMs running dry without cash replenishment.
UFBU earlier called a strike for Jan 20-21, which was deferred after the Indian Banks Association (IBA) increased its initial offer to 9.5 percent, from 5 percent, with a promise to improve it further.
However, at the discussions on Jan 27, the IBA increased its offer by just 0.5 percent to 10 percent, which was rejected by the UFBU. It has been seeking an increase of 30 percent on the grounds that wage revision is pending since November 2012.
UFBA said it called the strike as the discussions on wage revision have been very tardy since the last one year.
Government transactions, foreign exchange transactions and money market operations were also affected.
“All our RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlements) involving clearing of payments with banks that are on strike are affected,” an executive of a foreign bank based in Delhi and not part of the strike told IANS.
In Mumbai, all branches of public sector banks, private banks, many foreign banks in the city, and the regional rural bank branches were deserted.
“The strike is total. Over a million employees in all these banks, barring the cooperative sector banks, are taking part with around 90,000 bank branches to remain shut for two days for our various demands,” AIBEA vice-president Vishwas Utagi told IANS.
Besides the pending issue of wage revisions, the UBFU is also opposing banking reforms like privatisation of banks, mergers, issuing new bank licenses to corporate houses, rising non-performing assets and related aspects.
UBFU earlier went on strike on these issues on Dec 18, 2013.