Nationwide bank strike hits operations

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New Delhi, Jan 25 (UNI) Banking services across the country came to a grinding halt today, as bank employees and officers struck work to press for their demands, including scrapping outsourcing work and merger of the public sector banks.

The strike, called by the umbrella organisation of nine all-India unions of officers and employees United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), witnessed more than nine lakh employees holding demonstrations and procession across the country.

''More than nine lakhs employees and officers observed the strike and banking transanctions in more than one lakh branches were stopped across the country,'' National Confederation of Bank Employees General Secretary V K Gupta told UNI here.

Customers, especially the business class, were badly affected by the disruption of normal functioning of banks. Besides, technology-driven service like ATMs also came to halt in some places.

The unions demands include extending one more option to the PF optees to join the pension scheme; restoring compassionate appointments in banks; filling up all unfilled vacancies and early settlement of wage revision.

The main plank on which the strike call has been given pertains to consolidations in the banking industry and outsourcing.

Earlier this week, the conciliation meeting between Indian Banks Association and the employee association failed to yield any results.

In Maharashtra, over 50,000 bank employees of the state joined the nationwide strike.

The employees took out processions at several places in front of the banks in Mumbai and other cities across the state.

Meanwhile, a protest rally was also held at State Bank of India (SBI), Dena Bank, Central Bank of India including other PSU banks.

About 3,000 employees staged demonstration and took out a rally in New Market area of Bhopal.

In Manipur, all major banks were closed and people had to face difficulties. In Puducherry, banking operations were affected due to one-day strike as the employees held a demonstration before the SBI.

In Tamil Nadu, about 50,000 employees of 21 nationalised banks, comprising more than 5,000 branches in the state, struck work, affecting transactions running into several crore of rupees, a spokesman of the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) Tamil Nadu Chapter said.

In Andhra Pradesh, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary Ch Venkatachalam claimed that about ten lakh employees were on strike and all bank branches closed. Cash transactions came to a halt but in some places general public have been able to draw cash through ATMs.

The government treasury and foreign exchange operations were paralysed, he claimed and said the employees held demonstrations in front of bank branches against the attitude of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre in solving their demands.

In Rajasthan, UFBU state co-ordinator Mahesh Mishra claimed banking business worth Rs 4,000 crore could not be transacted in the state due to strike.

He said about 70,000 checks valuing about Rs 725.77 crore could not be cleared while almost the same amount is pending for electronic clearance.

UFBU Bihar General Secretary J N Singh said, ''the strike was total and successful'' as all the 40,000 bank employees stayed away from their work.

The UFBU has decided for indefinite strike from the last week of March if the Centre government and the Indian Banks Association (IBA) failed to resolve the issues.

UNI AM/MP SBA AS1809

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