The two-day strike that started on Wednesday evoked partial response as transport remained largely unaffected and government offices, except banks and post offices, functioned.
The banking operations in the city came to a grinding halt as employees of several public sector banks and co-operative banks went on strike in response to the call of central trade unions.
Several bank branches had downed their shutters on the call of the two-day nationwide strike. Unlike last year’s strike when some branches were open and had skeletal staff members, this time, entire work force of bank branches refrained from work.
Customers, particularly entrepreneurs, were affected as they could not carry out last minute transactions. Some customers like B.Dileep of Aminjikarai also raised concern about cash in automated teller machines getting drained owing to the strike.
However, public transportation was not badly hit due to the strike as several buses operated by Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) and autorickshaws plied as usual. Sources in the MTC said that operations were not affected in the city. “We ensured 100 per cent operation of the fleet. We had anticipated points where drivers would abstain from work and used reserve drivers in their place,” said an official.
However, CITU Auto and Taxi Drivers Association President S.Appanu said that autorickshaw drivers affiliated to unions including AITUC, LPF, INTUC and VCK participated in the strike. “Even those who were not members of unions struck work as they too are affected by price rise,” he said.
According to All India Bank Employees’ Association, nearly 21,000 employees, including officers, of 1,100 bank branches joined the strike. The association’s general secretary C.H.Venkatachalam said that nearly 4 lakh cheques worth over Rs.2,900 crore could not be processed in the city due to strike on Wednesday and this amount would increase on Thursday.
Highlighting the demands, he said that besides the demands raised by the central trade unions such as control over escalating price of essential commodities and amendment of Minimum Wages Act, the association also protests against privatisation of banks and to restore appointments on compassionate grounds and increase recruitment.
S.Nagarajan of All India Bank Officers Association said that officers also took part in this strike as it demanded regulation of work hours for them and against outsourcing of employees. “We are also against merger of banks as it would not only reduce the choice of bank branches particularly in rural areas but also decrease work force.”
Though several post offices in the city were open, they had to manage with skeletal staff members as 80 per cent of the employees did not turn up for work. In some post offices, employees were outsourced to deliver parcels and mails. The footfalls to the post offices had also reduced as customers were unsure of the post offices remaining open.
J.Srivenkatesh of National Federation of Postal Employees, TN circle said that on an average, transactions worth Rs.5 crore are carried out daily in 150 post offices in Chennai and suburbs. This was severely hit owing to the strike.
Over two lakh medical and sales representatives across the country are also participating. The Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Association of India said it was opposed to opening up the self-reliant pharmaceutical industry to multinational companies “leading to severe exploitation in terms of prices of life-saving and essential medicines”. According to its secretary R. Ramesh Sundar, the MNCs and Indian corporate houses did not implement the country’s labour laws, subjecting field workers to harassment and victimisation.