Strike hits banking operations nationwide

A nationwide strike by employees of state-run banks to protest government moves to privatise and consolidate banking operations and the huge write-downs of non-performing loans to corporates, besides other demands hit normal banking operations today.

The one-day strike by nearly a million bank employees did not seriously disrupt banking services as online banking transactions have not been impacted as all critical operations of PSU banks like data centres remained open

However, inter-bank services like cheque clearance, money transfers, etc, were affected due to non-functioning of the 21-odd banks as the state-run banks control 75 per cent of the total banking sector business volume.

According to union leaders, around  a million bankers working in around 1,32,000 branches will be on strike.

The strike has been called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine banking sector employee unions, including All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW) and others.

Indian Banks' Association, an industry body, has asked banks to take measures in advance to minimise the impact of the strike.

The unions decided to go ahead with the strike after conciliatory talks between the unions and Indian Banks' Association called by the chief labour commissioner and the Department of Financial Services on Friday failed to resolve the issues.

The employee unions are opposing government's move to consolidate banking operations that they say is to camouflage bank losses and write-downs while axing jobs.

The demands of the unions include a no write-off policy for non-performing assets (NPAs) of corporate loans and declaration of wilful default of loans as a criminal offence.

A top union leader said the government should provide overtime for additional work during demonetisation. He also suggested that banks should not pass on the burden of corporate NPAs to bank customers by hiking charges.

Meanwhile, a postal employees' union has threatened to go on a one-day strike on 23 August to protest against non-implementation of benefits suggested by a panel. The nationwide strike has been called by the National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE), which represents around 4 lakh employees, to press for implementation of the benefits suggested as per a report by the Gramin Dak Sevaks committee.