Banking services to be paralysed on Feb 25 & 26; talks collapse

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New Delhi, Feb 24 (UNI) With the negotiations of the Unions with the Indian Banks Association(IBA) reaching a dead end, the stage is set for a two-day nation-wide Bank strike beginning tomorrow.

Prolonged negotiations with the IBA which continued late last night, failed to cut ice and all the Unions have given a collective call to ensure complete success of the strike.

On February 19, Public Sector Bank Union leaders met Finance Minister P Chidambaram and on February 22 Chief Labour Commisioner S K Mukhopadhya, but the negotiations bore no fruit. The IBA then stepped in and as a last-ditch effort invited the Unions here for further talks to save the situation.

"The IBA did not budge from its stand and was willing to yield nothing. The main differences related to the employees demand for a second pension and taking into account the view point of the Unions on Bank mergers," Mr C H Venkatachalam, Convenor of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) and General Secretary of All India Bank Employees Association(AIBEA), told UNI.

The call for the strike has been given by the United Forum of Bank Unions(UFBU), an umbrella organisation of all the nine unions representing bank workmen and officers. The delegation of the Unions was led by Mr Venkatachalam.

The Unions also gave a call for an indefinite strike beginning March 14. It is thus a formidable confrontation between the Government and Bank managements and the Unions on the other hand with no solution in sight.

The IBA team, which represents the Bank Managements, was led by Mr M B N Rao, IBA Chairman. Others who took part in the negotiations were Mr H N Sinor, IBA CEO and Mr G Shankar Narayan, Chief Adviser(Personnel), IBA.

The Forum had long winding negotiations with Mr Mukhopadhya and a draft was prepared relating to a probable solution. However, this was not signed either by the Chief Labour Commissioner or UFBU due to some snags, Mr V K Gupta, Delhi Convenor of UFBU and General Secretary of National Confederation of Bank Unions(NCBU), said.

The Unions also had a meeting with Secretary (Financial Services) Arun Ramanathan and later with Mr Chidambaram, but the talks did not yield any results.

Mr Anuj Jain, Assistant General Secretary of State Bank of India Staff Association, said the portesters in the main cities would assemble at the premises of SBI offices. There will be deomonstrations, as for instance, in the SBI's main building at Parliament Street.

Mr Venktachalam regretted the inconvenience that would be caused to the public, but added that the managements too need to perceive this.

Meanwhile, Bankers said cash at many ATMs has started drying up in view of the two-day strike. The cash in the ATMs was inserted yeterday. In view of the three days of halting of banking services, there has been an overdraw of cash.

The Union leaders said employees of old private sector banks as well as foreign banks will also join the strike, which will completly paralyse banking services throughout the country.

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