SBI, 7 associate banks observe strike

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New Delhi, Aug 18 (UNI) The State Bank of India (SBI) and the seven associate banks of the largest bank in the country observed a day-long strike bringing all transactions to a halt to protest the government's decision to merge State Bank of Saurashtra with the parent bank.

All India State Bank Officers Federation (AISBOF) President T N Goel told UNI the strike was complete with all centres joining in.

He said there were no transactions throughout the day and all the branches of SBI and the associate banks remained closed.

As many as 80,000 officers, working in 15,000 branches of the SBI and the associate banks were on strike, Mr Goel added.

He said the government's decision to merge was against the spirit of the SBI Subsidiaries Act, 1959, which was amended recently by Parliament.

The amended Act provides for greater autonomy for the associate banks, permitting them to raise more capital from the market and maintaining the independent character of the associate banks. The Indian Banks Association (IBA) had approved these proposals.

''The SBI management misled the government and convinced it to merge associate banks with the SBI,'' Mr Goel said.

The strike was called by AISBOF.

Union leaders said in case the government fails to act in accordance with the demands of the employees, the mode of agitation would be intensified and could result in an indefinite strike in September.

The Unions of Public Sector Banks have gone on strike thrice recently, mergers and consolidation being a main plank.

The SBI Unions, apart from opposing the merger of associate banks with the SBI, are also demanding similar benefits post-retirement as that the SBI.

They fear the SBI mergers would lead to closure of branches and thus, retrenchment of staff.

Mr Goel argued that the merger was a redundant issue as the SBI and the associate banks have a common balance sheet.

Besides, the mergers would create problems of integration of cultures of the merger entities.

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