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Bank staff strike against merger hits services in India.

Summary: Protest over the likely impact in the form of loss of jobs and closure of branches

Bank employees stage a protest against the proposed merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda, as part of their nation-wide strike, in Ahmedabad. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi/Kolkata/Chennai: Banking services at branches of state-run banks across the country were hit on Wednesday following the strike by unions against the proposed merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda.

Bank staff are protesting the proposed amalgamation on the ground of its likely impact in the form of loss of jobs and closure of branches. The one-day strike was also to press for other demands including wage revision.

The strike was called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) -- an umbrella organisation of all 9 unions including the All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC), the All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE) and the National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW).

Wednesday's strike follows the one last Friday by the officers' union of public sector banks (PSBs) to protest against the merger and to demand the immediate settlement of wage negotiations.

AIBEA General Secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told IANS from Chennai that the strike call by the unions, which have a combined membership of 10 lakhs, received "very enthusiastic" response.

"Reports are reaching us from all the states that the strike has been successful. Clearing operations were affected because branches are closed and cheques cannot be sent for clearance. Cash transactions have been similarly affected," he said.

"Government treasury operations, import and export bill negotiations, money market operations, etc have also been affected. About 3 million of cheques worth about Rs2.3 trillion will be held up without clearance due to the strike."

Venkatachalam said the protest was joined by unions of 12 private sector lenders like Federal Bank, Dhanalakshmi Bank, Karur Vaishya Bank, Catholic Syrian Bank, Karnataka, Bank, Nainital Bank and Kotak Mahindra, among others.

He said that with the last conciliation meeting called by Additional Chief Labour Commissioner not yielding any assurance on the merger, the unions plan to meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to "explore convincing the government to stop the merger, or else we will be forced to step up although our aim is not to disrupt banking operations."

The government approved this first three-bank merger in September.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh-affiliated NOBW vice-president Ashwini Rana said in a statement: "We also feel strongly that the main issue confronting banks, which is increasing bad loans, will get relegated by bringing proposals of consolidation and merger to the fore."

"The nationwide strike in public sector banks against the merger of Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank, is completely successful at least in Kolkata and Delhi as far as I know," said All India Dena Bank Employees Coordination Committee Deputy General Secretary Amitava Ghosh.

The strike also affected banking services in Kolkata.

"Private and foreign banks' branches across the city remained shut. Most of the ATM shutters are down, though ATMs located at the hospitals were kept out of the strike. Clearing activities remained closed," United Forum of Bank Unions' West Bengal Convener Siddhartha Khan told IANS.

"We also wish to draw attention to the humongous NPAs [non-performing assets or bad loans] and to press forward the demand of publication of list of skilful and wilful defaulters," All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC) Assistant General Secretary Sanjay Das said, adding that a writ petition has already been filed at Delhi High Court challenging the legality of the merger decision.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 26, 2018
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