Services of public sector banks were badly affected on Wednesday as more than 10 lakh bank employees went on a two-day nationwide strike against the meagre 2% salary hike offered by Indian Banks Association.
As a result, banking transactions worth about Rs 21,700 crore could not be put into effect across the country on day one of the strike.
However, operations in private banks, such as ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, were almost normal, barring few activities including cheque clearance.
"The strike call evoked good response. About 85,000 bank branches, including that of State Bank of India (SBI) and some private banks, spread across the country were closed," C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA), told IANS.
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, called for a two-day strike starting Wednesday.
Since the bank strike coincides with the month-end, salary withdrawals from branches are likely to get affected. Some ATMs may also take a hit. Besides, deposits in bank branches, renewal of fixed deposits, government treasury operation, money market operation are likely to be impacted by the bank strike.
In Rajasthan, nearly 30,000 employees participated in the bank strike. “The strike is likely to affect Rs10,000 crore worth transactions daily. Nearly 5,500 bank branches are shut and 30,000 employees are on strike in support of nationwide stir,” the United Forum of Bank Unions convenor (Rajasthan) Mahesh Mishra said.
In Maharashtra, nearly 60,000 sectoral employees are protesting against the “meagre” 2% wage hike offered by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). The state-run bank branches in Mumbai were either shut or witnessed thin activity. Employees of all the 21 state-run commercial banks, regional rural banks, 13 old generation private banks and six foreign banks are participating in the protest, unions claimed.
In Kerala, banking operations came to a standstill as about 30,000 employees and officers of various banks participated in the strike. Functioning of 5,200 branches in the state was hit due to the strike. Many people complained that several ATMs had gone dry yesterday itself and they found it difficult to meet emergency needs.
In Kolkata, all bank branches and ATMs remained closed and normal banking work was paralysed on the first day of the two-day nation-wide bank strike and bank unions have claimed total response across West Bengal to the agitation. A United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), which is an umbrella organisation of seven bank trade unions, claiming total response to the strike said all private and public sector bank branches remained closed across the state.
Banking services in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh were also hit due to the ongoing strike. All customers services including cash withdrawals as well as cheque clearance/deposits were affected.
As several rounds of talks between banks and employee unions did not make any headway, the United Forum of Banking Unions, an umbrella body of nine bank unions, has gone on strike against the proposed wage hike of 2% as against 15% given last time, said C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary of All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA).
“It is kind of an insult to the employees of public sector banks...to be offered this kind of meagre hike. We had no other option but to go on strike, forgoing two days’ salary,” said Ravinder Gupta, joint general secretary, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC).
Success of all government schemes like Mudra, Jan Dhan Yojana and demonetisation were ensured by public sector bankers but the reward is just 2% hike, Gupta said, adding it is gross injustice to bankers who have worked very hard for nation-building.
“Nearly 10 lakh bank employees are participating in the nationwide strike as part of our democratic right by forgoing our salary,” said Venkatachalam and hoped that good sense prevails. There are about 85,000 branches of 21 public sector banks across India, accounting for 70% of all banking operations in the country.
Most of the PSU banks, including State Bank of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB) and Bank of Baroda, have already informed their customers about disruption of services due to the bank strike.
(With agency inputs)