Govts shift accounts as SBI strike continues
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Govts shift accounts as SBI strike continues

Many state govts started to shift treasury accounts to other public sector banks as the SBI strike continued.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 16:13 IST

Many state governments started to shift treasury accounts to other public sector banks as the countrywide indefinite strike by the workers of the country's largest bank continued for the sixth day on Saturday.

Over 200,000 officers and workers of the State Bank of India (SBI) from over 9,000 branches, located in different parts of the country, are on an indefinite strike since Monday demanding revision in a pension scheme.

While union officials vowed to press ahead with their agitation till their demands were met, personal and business financial transactions continued to be badly affected across the country.

"The strike is complete in all parts of the country. No business is being transacted in any of the SBI branches," said VK Gupta, vice president of All India State Bank of India Staff Federation.

The All India State Bank of India Staff Federation and the All India State Bank Officers' Federation are spearheading the nationwide agitation.

"We are very firm on our stance and the strike will not be called off till our demands are met by the authorities. The government is not showing any interest in ending the deadlock," Gupta said.

The striking workers said the pension ceiling had been kept unchanged at Rs 4,250 per month based on the salary structure of 1992. Although salary was revised in 1997 and 2002, the pension ceiling had not been hiked.

The SBI workers are demanding 50 per cent of last drawn salary as pension.

The strike has badly affected hundreds of thousands of middle-class salaried employees as a score of state and government enterprises disburse the monthly salaries through the branches of the SBI.

The trading in the Indian money market has also been adversely affected because of the strike. Industry sources said they would have to face major setbacks in the days ahead if the strike was not called off at the earliest.

Public sector SBI accounts for 18 per cent of the total deposits and advances in the Indian banking sector.

With the six-day old agitation showing no signs of ending soon, many state governments - including Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar - have started the process of shifting the treasury to other public sector banks.

The move is likely to adversely impact the earnings of the SBI, which handles 60 per cent of the total receipts and payments on behalf of the central and state governments.

The bank's management has appealed to the agitating workers to return to work immediately, assuring them to resolve "pending issues".

"In the wake of the ongoing strike by our employees, millions of our esteemed customers have been put to severe inconvenience," said SBI in a statement signed by its chairman AK Purwar and managing director TS Bhattacharya.

"These include the poorest of poor, pensioners, small businessmen, salaried and middle class people, corporates as well as state and central government. We owe it to our stakeholders to restore normalcy to our functioning," it added.

"We, therefore, appeal to our employees to return to work immediately. Meanwhile, we assure them of our endeavours to resolve the pending issues."

According to experts, the country's financial system is taking a hit of as much as Rs 20 billion (nearly $450 million) per day as a result of the strike by the workers of the public sector banking giant.

Meanwhile, the agitating SBI workers held protest rallies in many parts of the country denouncing the government. In the country's financial capital, the SBI branches wore a deserted look and all transactions were badly crippled.

First Published: Apr 08, 2006 15:38 IST