Protest against proposed banking sector reforms

Public sector bank employee unions began a two-day strike on Wednesday protesting against proposed banking sector reforms and outsourcing of core banking jobs.

More than hundred employees and officers staged an agitation in front of the State Bank of India office near the Madurai Railway Junction raising slogans against the various policies of the Central Government.

With both officers and other employees going on strike, banking services took a major hit in the district.

In a statement issued here, M. Sundararajan, convener of the United Forum of Bank Unions which had given the strike call, said that Central Government was pushing with vigour the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill to raise the ceiling on voting rights of share holders to 26 per cent from the present 10 per cent. This, he apprehended, will enable foreign companies to take control of Indian banks.

Further provisions like exempting bank mergers from the ambit of the Competition Commission of India, supersession of bank boards and allowing banks to enter the highly speculative business of forward trading have also been retained.

Under the guise of non-viability and unprofitable nature, he alleged that the Centre had decided to close down rural branches and outsource them to business correspondents through Ultra Small branches.

Further, the unions also urged the Centre and the Indian Banks' Association to tackle pending issues such as revised compassionate appointment scheme, non-extension of pension option to certain section of retirees, five-day working in banks, regulated working hours improvements in pension scheme like updating and the revival of Banking Service Recruitment Board (BSRB) besides the revision of guidelines for staff loans.

He also drew attention to the attempts of the banking sector to implement the Khandelwal Committee recommendations, which was being opposed by all unions.

The recommendations, he said, include unilateral guidelines for promotion and transfer policies besides human resource issues.

Not unanimous

However, the strike was not total as some unions did not respond to the call.

The All India Overseas Bank Employees’ Union (AIOBEU) said that in view of the talks held in July with the Labour officials, which resulted in an earlier strike call in July getting shelved, it did not participate in the strike.

Further, the union said that P. Chidambaram, who has only recently taken charge as the Union Finance Minister, should be given more time to consider the demands.

As such, the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE), to which the AIOBEU is affiliated, had decided not to take part in the ongoing two-day strike, said K. Somasundaram, assistant general secretary, AIOBEU.

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