CONTRARY TO the popular notion that the nationwide strike on Thursday would paralyse the banking operations and put transactions to a halt, several public sector banks, including the largest player State Bank of India, continued with their business like any other day.
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) – the umbrella body of bank employees’ unions, which gave call to the nationwide strike, the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), and the All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) had claimed that none of the staff and officials would go for any clerical work in banks. However, regular transactions, usual services to customers and clearing operations took place both at Bhopal and other parts of Madhya Pradesh – albeit with a low turnover.
The clearing-house (MICR Centre at Central Bank) in Bhopal reported to have received 14,500 cheques from 40 banks against the daily average of 25,000 cheques from 53 banks.
“The SBI is not participating in the strike and like other days, our regular transactions took place, which is usually between Rs 5 to 10 crore,” told State Bank of India’s assistant general manager (TT Nagar Branch), Janardan Tiwari to the Hindustan Times. “However, we couldn’t participate in the clearances,” he said.
The effect of the strike was remarkably visible in the branches of the PSBs affiliated to the AIBEA and AIBOA. But opinion on the utility of strike differed both at the union and management levels. An office-bearer of SBI Workmen Union said though both the workmen and officers’ unions supported the strike, they did not participate in it.
“It was absolutely an outside support,” he maintained. Though the issues related to privatisation, outsourcing, taking stringent action against defaulters, withdrawing the amendment bill to the Banking Regulation Act and not to raise the FDI cap in banking have widely been acknowledged both by the employees and officials in the banking sector, a difference in opinion emerged on participation in the strike.
“If we keep banks closed, it affects our customers only, which can’t be accepted in the present competitive scenario in banking,” remarked a PSB official.
They also opined that instead of taking resort to strikes, the bank unions should be in dialogue with the government and a media debate should be followed on the issues, which are no doubt genuine.
Several branches took help of additional staff members from its zonal offices to remain functional. “We functioned normally today and asked for additional staff, so that customer service doesn’t get affected,” said Bank of Baroda’s chief manager K K Mohanta.
Though the Allahabad Bank claimed to have kept its branches open, the cash receipt & payment operations remained non-functional. “Since award staff went on strike, we couldn’t render these services,” said Allahabad Bank’s L N Chowdhary.
As precautionary measures, the unions put notices at the branches for customers reminding that they should get their works done before December 14.
However, the UFBU was successful in pressing its demands through rallies and demonstrations, which was participated by nearly 25,000 bank employees and officers. “Due to AIBEA’s strong presence, our branches virtually remained closed,” remarked State Bank of Indore’s deputy general manager BK Bansal.
Since State Bank of Indore participated in the strike, we took charge of the clearing house in Indore, in addition to Bhopal. Banking industry as a whole was not affected, but some branches did
R P Tripathi, Zonal manager, Central Bank of India
AIBEA & AIBOC affiliated branches totally kept away from functioning, thereby making the strike a huge success. Even, officers supported our cause
V K Sharma, Joint secretary, AIBEA’s