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SBI indefinite strike enters day two, bank services affected

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 4 (UNI) The indefinite strike by an estimated 2.10 lakh workers and officers of the State Bank of India (SBI) across the country entered its second day today, affecting bank services amid demonstrations and dharnas held in all the states.

The striking SBI employees from 9022 branches are demanding a revision of the pension rate.

The All India State Bank of India Staff Federation and the All India State Bank of India's Officers' Federation, claimed that operations in branches, including nearly 1,000 in the Delhi region, were affected by the strike.

''The entire system has been paralysed... all operations have been suspended,'' All India State Bank of India's Officers' Federation Vice President T N Goel claimed.

Many of the SBI's over 3,000 ATMs across the country ran out of cash, leaving customers in distress.

Cheque clearing operations were also affected for the second day as the bank controls around 14 MICR and 627 non-MICR clearing houses across the country.

In a joint statement, All India State Bank Officers' Federation General Secretary Shantha Raju and All India State Bank of India Staff Federation Secretary P K Patnaik termed the agitation as a ''phenomenal success''. The leaders of the two federations have decided to participate in the conciliatory proceedings, convened by the Labour Commissioner here tomorrow with an open mind, they said.

Stating that the SBI workforce had not struck work on frivolous grounds, they claimed that the strike had been forced upon them by the ''apathy, indifference and casual approach'' of the SBI management, RBI and Banking Department for the last 15 years.

The nationwide strike comes in the wake of the government's failure to address the long-pending issue of pension scheme, awaiting revision for the past 14 years, they added.

According to bank sources, while pension was revised and updated in the case of the several associate banks of SBI, it was not undertaken for the SBI employees.

In response to a call given by the Joint Action Committee(JAC) comprising All India State Bank Officers' Federation (AISBOF) and All India State Bank of India Staff Federation (AISBISF), the workers and officers across the country went on protest.

The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre and RBI to file a report on the action initiated to resolve the crisis. The matter will come up for hearing tomorrow.

In the north-west region of the country, the strike was total on the second day in all the 640 branch offices of the SBI in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Chandigarh, All India State Bank Officer's Federation president Amar Pal said.

He said around 15,000 employees of the SBI upto the rank of additional general manager (AGM), which included 4,500 officers, were on indefinite strike.

The employees also held a demonstration outside the main branch of the SBI in Chandigarh and at different places in the main cities and towns and raised slogans against the Central government.

In Mumbai and its suburbs, the bank services were affected in over 260 branches employing around 8,000 people. In Himachal Pradesh, the bank's staff association deputy general secretary C S Verma claimed that strike was complete and peaceful in all the 151 branches of the state and employees held rallies and demonstrations in front of their offices.

The employees also held a demonstration outside the main branch of the SBI in Shimla and raised slogans against the central government and the bank management.

In Tamil Nadu, the striking employees and officers staged a demonstration in front of the Zonal office at Parry's corner in Chennai.

In a joint statement here, General Secretary State Banks' Staff Union V R Udaya Shankar and General Secretary SBI Officers' Association G Santhanam said the strike was 'total' in the state.

''The strike has sent a strong message to the Central government as it had called for conciliation talks,'' Mr Shankar said.

The United Forum of Bank Unions, Tamil Nadu state unit comprising nine officers and workmen organisations in the banking industry organised a demonstration in front of the SBI, Anna Salai, in support of the striking employees.

In Andhra Pradesh, over 21,000 employees and officers participated in the indefinite strike on the second day.

In Karnataka, the bank's branches and regional head office at St Marks Road wore a deserted look as hundreds of employees staged a dharna in support of their long-pending demands.

According to a Mysore report, over 200 employees and officers staged a dharna a little away from the SBI main office as the Delhi High Court had restrained employees from staging demonstrations within the bank premises. The strike was total in the city, union leaders said.

In West Bengal, SBI employees in all the 786 branches in the state staged demonstrations and held dharnas in front of their respective offices to press the government for their demand.

Claiming that post retirement financial benefits of SBI employees are among the lowest in the country,SBI Staff Association General Secretary Ashok Dutta said the strike would continue till the Union Finance Minister met their demand. He said it would not cause any additional expense to the national exchequer.

''When the Bank management had agreed to meet the demand and recommended it to the government, we wonder why the union finance ministry is not agreeing to it,'' Mr Dutta told UNI.

In Tripura, spokesman of the bank's joint movement committee Dilip Deb described the strike as 'total' in all the 33 branches across the state.

Incidentally,the SBI has already set up a separate pension corpus of Rs 1,000 crores through systematic contributions from the Bank's annual profit a few years ago and in case of any increase in the ceiling the bank's additional burden would be to the tune of only Rs 400 crores.

The long pending pension scheme demand had not been revised since the last 14 years. While the pension scheme was revised and updated in the case of the seven associate banks of SBI, it was not revised for the employees of SBI despite several representations made to the management, bank's union sources said.


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