The employees are demanding a fair and just wage revision commensurate with the work load, risks and responsibilities, said a union official here Tuesday.
"Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's statement Monday that bank profits cannot be used for wage hike is wrong. The profits of banks have been going up. The profits are being used to write off bad loans," K. Anandakumar, senior vice president, All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), told IANS.
"In the last six years, a whopping Rs.141,294 crore of bad loans have been written off. During last five years Rs.140,266 crore have been provided towards bad loans from profits," C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA), told IANS.
The union officials are unanimous that employees cannot be held responsible for the banks' bad loans.
"The priority is to take stringent measures to recover the bad loans to boost up the capital requirements instead of denying the legitimate wage increase of bank employees. It is very unfortunate that the finance minister who is fully aware of the genuine demands of the bank employees has chosen to decry our demands," Venkatachalam said.
He added: "When it comes to our salary revision, managements are reluctant. Over the past five years the wage bill as a percentage of bank's total expenses have been coming down. What we demand is a reasonable increase in our wages."
"Bank loan write-off is an industry by itself. The write-offs are very systematic and scientific," a banker told IANS, preferring anonymity.
Over 10 lakh bankers across the country were on two-day strike - Monday and Tuesday - demanding wage hike and halting the banking sectoral reforms.
According to Anandakumar, the inflation is skyrocketing and the cost of living has gone up.
"The bank management has offered a hike of 10 percent which comes to around Rs.3,115 crore. Even if the offer is 100 percent the total wage hike will be around Rs.31,150 crore. On the other hand, the write-off of bad corporate loans is several times over this," Anandakumar said.
According to union officials, the wage revision in the banks sector is due from November 2012. The United Forum of Bank Unions comprising nine unions submitted its charter of demands in October 2012.
The Indian Banks Association has been delaying the matter for the past one year.
As regards the clearance of cheques that have been held up due to the two-day strike, Anandakumar said it is for the banks to take up the issue with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).