Home Economy Indian bank employees begin two-day strike

Indian bank employees begin two-day strike


New Delhi : Nearly one million bank employees in India, including some with private and foreign banks, began a two-day nationwide strike Thursday demanding higher wages and a better social security net.

As per reports coming in from across the country, people were able to withdraw money from automated teller machines, even though other services like getting demand drafts and obtaining cheque books were affected.

The strike has been called by the United Forum of Bank Unions — an umbrella organisation representing nine unions of officers and other staff in the banking industry.

Apart from the staff in all state-run banks, those with private entities like Catholic Syrian Bank and foreign ones like HSBC also joined the agitation. But the operations of some institutions like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Standard Chartered were unaffected.

“I was able to withdraw money. But I will have to go to a private bank — ICICI Bank or something — to get a pay order. The kind of trouble we used to face earlier isn’t there now. But it is irritating,” said Usha Ramakrishnan, who has an account with the State Bank of India.

The main demands of the striking staff are wage increase, a better social security net to take care of their post-retirement needs and a proper policy for giving jobs to the family members of deceased or disabled employees on compassionate grounds.

The unions have been demanding a 20-percent wage hike, and rejected the offer of 17.5 percent increase made Wednesday by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) that represents the bank managements.

The government had asked the unions to hold talks with the bank managements and the chief labour commissioner, but the parleys were inconclusive.

“The association is playing with us. When they agreed to 17.5 percent hike initially, they brought in another clause that the pension load should be borne equally,” said N.S. Virk, vice president the All India Bank Officers’ Association.

“This is after they signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing,” he said.

“We are on strike. Future course of action will be decided by the forum,” said Virk, suggesting that more such agitations would follow if the government and the bank managements do not manage to pacify the unions.