2-day bank strike stalls transactions in K’taka

Transactions were stalled as around 1-lakh employees of 12 state-run banks across Karnataka went on a two-day strike in protest against the government’s move to merge or privatise their banks and deny jobs for others in future, a trade union leader said on Monday.

“Our call for a two-day strike in protest against the government’s moves evoked an overwhelming response from about 1 lakh employees across the state, stalling transactions and other operations,” United Forum of Bank Union’s (UFBU) Karnataka convenor Srinivas Shroff told IANS.

UFBU, an umbrella body of nine bank unions, has given the shutdown call.

As the bank strike began after two consecutive holidays on second Saturday and Sunday, thousands of customers and businesses faced hardship, as the banks and their 5,000 branches remained shut through the day.

Cash withdrawals and other transactions by customers having debit/credit cards and internet banking, however, were not affected, as automatic teller machines (ATMs) are functioning and online access was available.

“All our members, including officers participated in sit-in demonstration and rallies held in cities and towns across the state to oppose the government move to merge more public sector banks and privatise them,” said Shroff.

Customers could not deposit thousands of cheques or get demand drafts as banks remained shut through the day.

The government plans to privatise 2 state-run banks besides IDBI Bank.

Merger of banks like Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda, Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank with United Bank of India and Syndicate Bank with Canara Bank has reduced public sector banks to 12 from 27 earlier.

“The government is bent upon merging more banks to have only four strategic banks such as State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda and Canara Bank and privatise the remaining banks,” Shroff asserted.

In Bengaluru, about 10,000 employees of all banks and their branches staged a massive demonstration at Mysore circle in the city where the erstwhile State Bank of Mysore was headquartered before its merger with SBI.

“Merger of state-run banks have led to closure of several branches, rationalisation of staff and relocation of many employees in cities and towns across the state,” noted Shroff, who is also general secretary of the All-India State Bank of India Officers Association.

Hundreds of employees of old-generation banks like Karnataka Bank, Karur Vysya Bank and Dhanalakhmi Bank also joined the nationwide strike, disrupting customer services offline.

“Though we all will lose two days’ wages for going on strike, we have no option but to protest by staying from work, as conciliation talks with the government failed last week,” recalled Shroff.