Monday, 30th October 2017

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Strike paralyses banking sector

The two striking unions claimed that operations of over 90 per cent of the ATMs were affected in the strike

By A Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 23.10.19, 1:29 AM
  • Updated 23.10.19, 1:29 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Protesters at the bank strike at Dalhousie on Tuesday Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha

Banking services were severely affected in Bengal because of a one-day national strike called by two bank employee unions on Tuesday to protest the merger of 10 public sector banks into four.

According to the two striking unions — the All India Bank Employees’ Association and the Bank Employees’ Federation of India — transactions in 90 per cent of commercial bank branches in the state were affected with operations in public sector banks affected more than the private ones.

There are 9,265 bank branches in the state of which State Bank of India holds the largest share at 1,311 branches. Operations in around 50 per cent of the SBI branches were affected, according to the unions with many employees offering moral support to the strike.

The unions claimed that operations of over 90 per cent of the ATMs were affected in the strike. There are around 12,000 ATMs in the state of which public sector bank ATMs are 7,837.

“ATMs are most affected in a strike because it is easy to bring down the shutters and the customers would not even be aware whether the machine inside is running or not,” said a public sector bank executive. Biswajit Dutta, 62, a resident of Jadavpur, said he was in immediate need of cash on Tuesday to pay for a repair service at home. “I was travelling near Prince Anwar Shah Road when I got a call from home that the water filter mechanic has given a repair bill of Rs 2,800. It was an unplanned expense, so I thought of withdrawing cash from the ATM on my way back. But to my surprise, most of the ATMs were closed, which I later came to know was because of a strike. I had to write a cheque instead,” Dutta said.

The unions admitted that the strike has caused inconvenience for the general public but said that it was in the interest of the sector as a whole.

“The strike was total and complete. Normal banking services were affected across the country, including Bengal. All India Bank Officers’ Association and All India Bank Officers’ Confederation extended fraternal support. All the central trade unions extended their support. We also have to thank customers and general public for bearing with this unavoidable inconvenience to them,” said Rajen Nagar president, AIBEA. He added that the unions would meet shortly to decide on next course of action.

The merger of public sector banks was announced in August and is expected to take effect from April next year.

As part of the merger, Punjab National Bank is taking over Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India; Syndicate Bank is merging with Canara Bank; Union Bank of India will amalgamate with Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank; and Indian Bank will merge with Allahabad Bank. Unions fear rationalisation of branches and ATMs as part of the merger.

Besides merger, the rampant increase in bank service charges, reduction of interest rates on deposits and recovery of bad loans and adequate recruitment are among the other issues of the strike.

Last month, officers' unions had called a two-day all-India bank strike that was later withdrawn following the government’s intervention.