Bank unions give call to join nation-wide strike tomorrow

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New Delhi, Aug 19 (UNI) Major bank unions today said they would join the nationwide strike tomorrow, the call for which has been given by Left-backed trade unions.

The strike call is to protest the economic policies of the UPA government.

The banking unions laid out their own agenda for joining the strike, apart from what the Left trade unions have been demanding.

These included mergers of Public Sector Banks (PSBs), outsourcing of bank work, liberalising norms of Foreign Direct Investment in the sector and against moves to de-licence branch expansion.

''Since our long pending and genuine demands continue to be neglected and remain unresolved, we are compelled to intensify our agitation,'' the bank unions said in a statement.

These unions include All India Bank Employees Association, All India Bank Officers Association and Bank Employees Federation of India.

Leaders of the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions--M K Pandhe President of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Gurudas Dasgupta of All-India Trade Union Congress--said various segments of the economy would be participating in the strike.

The sectors include insurance, State and Central government employees, railways, defence, telecom, airlines and airports.

The unions supporting the general strike include All India Trade Union Congress, CITU, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India Central Council of Trade Union, Trade Union Coordination Centre and All India United Trade Union Centre.

Only yesterday, employees of the State Bank of India (SBI) and seven associate banks struck work against the government's decision to merge State Bank of Saurashtra with the parent bank.

In the past few months, bank unions have repeatedly gone on strike on the same issues and talks between the Finance Ministry and the Unions have not melted the ice.

The bank unions want strengthening of the social agenda mandate given to the PSBs.

This includes banking the unbanked sectors, reducing the interest rates to farm loans from seven per cent to four per cent, merger of regional rural banks (RRBs) with sponsor banks, curbing credit for speculative and stock market operations and hiking institutional credit to the rural and retail cultivators sector.

They also want a stiffer policy on recovery of whopping non-performing assets of PSBs.

All the unions, which have given a strike call for tomorrow are one on the government's failure to check surging prices.

At the heart of the matter, however, are the political undertones to paint the UPA government as being an 'anti-worker' and 'anti-people' in view of the elections to the state assemblies later this year and the general elections next year.

UNI GS SR BD1940

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