Bank employees back 2 Sept shut-down planned by trade unions

Nearly 5 lakh bank employees, including officers and office staff, affiliated to various trade unions will join a nation-wide strike planned by trade unions on 2 September to protest against what they call anti-labour and anti-people policies of the Modi government.

Trade unions, except the BJP-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) will be protesting the government's so-called labour reforms that render support to `hire-and-fire' policies of corporates and privatization of government undertakings.

Bank unions allege the government is helping corporate to plunder banks in the name of loan delinquency and writing off thousands of crores of public money as bad loans or NPAs.

"There have been increasing attacks in the banking industry and the government has been taking steps which are anti-people. It's attempting to privatise state-run banks and merge associate banks with State Bank of India. It is also looting the public money in the name of bad loans," All-India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatchalam said.

"To protest against all these, we will be joining the national strike called by other labour unions on September 2."

On the massive rise in bad loans, which have touched the Rs13,00,000 crore mark, he alleged that instead of taking tough measures to book culprits and recover the money, more and more concessions are being given to defaulters.

''In the name of cleaning the bank balance sheets, these bad loans are being taken out of public glare so that they could be silently written off,'' he added.

He said while regional rural banks are being privatised and a central law has already been passed, primary agricultural co-operative societies are under the threat of closure and urban co-operative banks face delicensing.

Central trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, UTUC and LPF, had, on 30 march, given a call for one-day national general strike on 2 September to protest against the Modi government's "unilateral labour reforms and anti-worker policies".

The BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has, however, decided to keep away.

The unions had last year also struck work on 2 September to oppose the amendments in labour laws by the Centre as well as states, saying their 12-point charter of demands had not been met.

The unions have been opposing certain amendments proposed to the labour laws that that dilute existing social security available to workers and instead allow corporate to hire and fire labour and make it tougher for workers to form trade unions.

Under the proposed Industrial Relations Code Bill 2015, companies with up to 300 employees need not get government nod for retrenchment, layoffs and closures. The government is also working on a Small Factories Bill that seeks to exempt units with under 40 workers from 14 labour laws.

The 10 striking unions have a combined membership of 150 million workers in public and private sector enterprises, including banks and insurance companies.