State Bank of India
State Bank of IndiaWikimedia Commons

Bank unions under the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine unions in the sector, have gone on a strike on Tuesday, February 28, to protest against the government's "anti-people banking reforms." They are also demanding compensation for employees and officers for the extra work done during demonetisation, and have also requested the Centre to reimburse the cost of demonetisation to banks. 

The bank unions are not in favour of the labour reforms proposed by the government and also the outsourcing of permanent jobs in the banking sector. They have also demanded adequate recruitment to take place in all cadres, strict measures to recover bad loans and accountability of top executives. The unions have also demanded criminal action against wilful defaulters and early initiation of the process to revise the wages of bank employees.

However, two of the nine bank unions — National Organisation of Bank Workers and National Organisation of Bank Officers — under the UFBU, which are affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, will not be participating in the strike, according to the Press Trust of India. Around 27 public sector banks control 75 percent of the total business.

Private banks — ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank — are expected to carry out operations normally. There might be a delay in cheque clearances and cash transactions are also likely to be affected. ATMs are likely to be emptied early during the day, according to local media reports.

Most banks, including the State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Bank of Baroda, had informed their customers that operations at their bank branches and offices would be hit if the strike takes place. The strike will include employees and officers in all public sector banks, all old-generation private banks, foreign banks, regional rural banks and cooperative banks, VVSR Sarma, UFBU convenor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state units, said.

Sarma released a statement saying: "The real menace affecting the Indian banking industry is the rise in bad loans and the number of wilful loan defaulters. Fixing accountability for bad loans and taking action against the bank officials and wilful defaulters are the need of the hour and not formation of a 'bad bank'."

All India Bank Employees Association General Secretary Ch Venkatachalam, in a statement, said: "The unions have been fighting for more than two decades against the reform measures of the government as these are against the interests of the general public and labour force in the country... Further, every effort is being made to outsource permanent jobs in the banking industry, which is fraught with risks."

He also said that they have been demanding the introduction of a five-day banking system while adding that the strike was called after all attempts at finding a solution to the demands raised by the unions yielded no results. He further added that around 10 lakh bankers will join the strike.

Venkatachalam told the Press Trust of India (PTI) that the conciliation meeting before the chief labour commissioner on February 21 failed to break the deadlock because the bank management, which is represented by the Indian Banks Association, did not agree to demands and conditions put before them following which a strike was called for on February 28.