Customers were left to face unmitigated hardships on Monday as nearly eight lakh employees of 26 public sector banks chose to resort to a two-day strike to press for higher wages. With employees from 26 public sector, 11 private sector, seven foreign and 42 regional and rural banks taking part in the strike, financial transactions in the State came to a grinding halt.
In Tamil Nadu alone, around 95,000 to 1 lakh employees stayed away from their seats, causing 90 lakh cheques worth Rs 64,000 crore to remain uncleared. National figures were worse with about 10 crore cheques worth Rs 7.4 lakh crore remaining uncleared. “Officers of all the banks, except for the seven foreign ones, also took part in the strike,” said C H Venkatachalam, General Secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association.
People trying to transact over the counter were worse hit as almost 11,200 branches across the State remained closed or, as in the case of a few foreign banks, worked on a skeletal staff. Gaurav Pandian, from St. Thomas Mount, complained that with his bank closed, he had no way to obtain a demand draft he was required to send to a client on Tuesday. “I came to know of the strike only on Sunday evening. I had no way to obtain the DD before the strike began,” he pointed out.
The nationwide strike was called by the UFBU, which comprises nine bank trade unions, as a protest for revision of wages. Venkatachalam, who said in a statement that the strike had been forced upon them, told Express that they had asked the Indian Banks Association to improve their offer. “But the IBA told us that they would not consider it until we called of the strike first,” he said.
The unions earlier rejected IBA’s offer of a 10 per cent wage hike during a conciliation meeting held on February 6 with the Chief Labour Commissioner. The offer made by bank managements was not in line with rising inflation, General Secretary of National Organisation of Bank Workers Ashwini Rana said. The staff of public sector banks had resorted to a nationwide strike for a day on December 18 after discussions with the IBA on wages on December 14 failed. The wage revision of public sector bank employees has been due since November 2012.