Bank Strike: Two bank workers unions – All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI)- have decided to go ahead with the strike on Tuesday after their meeting with chief labour commissioner in New Delhi failed on Monday. The meeting was attended by two representatives each from the AIBEA and BEFI and one representative from Indian Banking Association (IBA) and a deputy secretary-level official from the finance ministry. However, the meeting failed to break the deadlock between the government and the bank unions as they decided to go ahead with their one-day strike on Tuesday against the single issue of their opposition to the merger and consolidation announced by the Modi government in August this year.
"Our strike is mainly against the merger," said SP Sharma, President of Delhi State Bank Employee Federation, affiliated to AIBEA.
Representaives of the Union government and Indian Banking Association (IBA) tried to persuade the members of AIBEA and BEFI but they refused to call off the strike. Last month, four large bank officers associations have called off their strike following a meeting with finance secretary Rajeev Kumar.
"We tried to explain them (representatives of AIBEA and BEFI) but they did not relent," said a source in the Indian Banking Association (IBA).
"The strike is on," he told Financial Express Online.
The two bank unions – AIBEA and BEFI – supported by the left parties, have called for a one day strike ahead of Diwali to register their protest against the Modi government’s decision to merge six PSU banks with four large ones.
The strike called by the AIBEA and BEFI is likely to hit operations in West Bengal due to their strong support base in the region, a state ruled by the left government for 30 years before it was unseated by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in 2011.
According to industry sources, while AIBEA is considered close to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), BEFI is affiliated to CPM’s Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
"The strike is likely to have an impact in the eastern part of India and West Bengal as these worker’s unions have a strong presence in the region," said Ashwani Rana, General Secretary, Delhi Pradesh Bank Worker’s Organisation.
But in a big relief for bank customers, these two unions don’t have a significant presence in India’s largest public sector bank-State Bank of India.
"We have a strong presence in almost all the banks except State Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank," SP Sharma of AIBEA told Financial Express Online.
Services of five banks likely to hit
According to industry sources, operations of at least five banks-Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC), Indian Bank, United Bank of India, UCO Bank and Kolkata based Allahabad Bank will be hit.
According to the merger plan announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in August this year, Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) and United Bank of India will merge with Punjab National Bank. According to the banking industry sources, the operations of these two banks, along with PNB, are likely to be hit as the strike is called on a single issue to protest the merger announced by the Modi government.
Two other banks-Indian Bank and Allahabad Bank-that are likely to be affected by the Tuesday’s strike is also in the Modi government’s merger list. Indian Bank and Allahabad Bank will merge and due to the sizeable presence of AIBEA members in Kolkata based Allahabad Bank, the operations of these two banks are also likely to be affected.
According to banking industry sources, BEFI has a strong presence in Uco Bank and its operations are also likely to be hit. Sources in the IBEA claimed that the one day strike will have an impact on all India level except SBI and Indian Overseas Bank.