The banking system came to a grinding halt across south India with around 800,000 employees of various nationalised, scheduled commercial banks observing a strike in demand for revision in their salaries. An estimated Rs 50,000 crore worth transactions were affected across the banking sector in south zone.
Over 10,000 branches of 51 banks in both private and public sector and State Bank of India Group took part in the strike under the banner of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine bank employees' and officers' unions.
The southern zone consists of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry. About 27 public sector banks, 12 private sector banks took part. More than 25,000 employees of various banks took part in the protest marches all across the southern states.
In Bengaluru, around 1,500 employees of various banks took out a protest march from Town Hall to head office of State Bank of Mysore (SBM) and held demonstrations. Similar rallies were held in Mysuru, Mangaluru, Belagavi, Hubballi and Davanagere. In Bengaluru alone, transactions like cheque truncation, clearing among others were affected to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore, said M K Narasimha Murthy, general secretary of INBEF.
The biggest protest rally was held in Thiruvananthapuram where over 10,000 employees participated. In Hyderabad, around 2,000 employees protested in front of the head office of the Bank of Hyderabad.
“The strike was peaceful and there were no untoward incidents. Our fellow bank employees cooperated in the strike. However, there was no communication from the government and the Indian Banks’ Association whatsoever, regarding the demands of employees,” Murthy said.
The strike was held to draw attention of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and the government over the anguish of the employees. The wage revision of public sector bank employees has been due since January 1, 2012. The employees are seeking 25 per cent jump in their salaries, while the IBA has offered to get 11 per cent hike.
“We have had several rounds of talks with the government and the IBA. We have offered to come down, but the IBA is not ready to increase their offer. But, the IBA should start the negotiations from 17.5 per cent onwards,” Murthy said.
Average salary of an entry level clerk in a bank is Rs 17,500 per month, which is much lower when compared to Rs 19,500 per month for a Class-III employee in state government and Rs 25,000 for an electricity board employee in Karnataka, he added.
In the previous salary hike effected for bank employees about seven years ago, the banks had offered 17.5 per cent rise in salaries.