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Strike cripples banking operations in Karnataka

Bangalore(IANS): Thousands of employees and officers of state-run and old generation private banks went on a two-day strike Wednesday, crippling banking operations across Karnataka in support of their demands.

“The strike call received an overwhelming response as over 50,000 employees and officers abstained from work across the state in support of our long-pending demands, especially fresh recruitments and promotions,” United Forum of Banks Unions (UFBU) Karnataka convener B.S. Ravindra told IANS here.

The forum is an umbrella organisation of nine major employees’ unions and four officers’ unions of state-run banks across the country with a million members.

It decided to go ahead with the strike call as talks with the Union labour commissioner in New Delhi Tuesday on their demands failed.

In Bangalore, about 10,000 employees of various banks held protest demonstration at the State Bank of Mysore in the city centre and shouted slogans against the central government for not meeting their demands. Similar protests were staged in other cities and towns across the state.

“Our main demand is to stop unilateral implementation of the A.K. Khandelwal committee recommendations, which led to freezing recruitments and denial of promotions to thousands of employees and officers at various cadres.

The percentage of vacancies in state-run banks has increased to 40 percent from 30 percent over the last 15 years,” Ravindra asserted.

The government constituted committee on human resources (HR) issues of state-run banks submitted its report June 24, 2010 with 105 recommendations on manpower and recruitment planning, training, posting, promotion, wages, services conditions and welfare. Of them, the banks have implemented only 56 with the remaining 49 requiring further deliberations with employees and officers.

Closure of about 2,500 branches of state-run and private banks across the state impacted business severely as millions of customers could not withdraw or deposit cash and cheques and transact other instruments, including clearing.

Cash withdrawal through automatic teller machines (ATMs) by retail customers, however, was not affected as banks deposited enough notes in their respective ATMs by late Tuesday.

With the two-day strike continuing Thursday, banks fear that their ATMs would run out of cash by late Wednesday as employees assigned to re-fill the machines were also abstaining from work.

“We are also opposing the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, due to be introduced in the current monsoon session of Parliament, as it will lead to de-nationalisation of state-run banks and merger of banks, especially of State Bank of India with its associate banks,” Ravindra said.

Other demands include stopping arbitrary guidelines on HR issues, outsourcing of bank jobs, banking sector reforms and closure of rural branches.

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