Services like banking and insurance as well as work across several sectors is likely to be affected due to a nationwide strike call given by 10 central trade unions on 8th January. The unions are protesting against the continued anti-worker labour policies of the Indian Government and against anti-people banking reforms.
Especially, bank customers may face hardships with services as several bank branches and automated teller machines (ATMs) could be affected on Wednesday as employees have threatened to go on a day-long strike.
Trade unions that have given strike call are Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).
From the banking Sector, the call has been jointly given by five unions such as All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA), Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), Indian National Bank Employees' Federation (INBEF) and Indian National Bank Officers Congress (INBOC).
According to CH Venkatachalam, general secretary of AIBEA, employees of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), co-operative banks, regional rural banks (RRBs), Life Insurance Corp of India (LIC) and general insurance sector are also joining the strike. "Workers from various other sectors like defence production, steel, oil coal, railways, ports, road transport, teachers and government employees have also decided to join the strike," he added.
The strike call of five bank employee unions is part of a 'Bharat Bandh' call given by 10 central trade unions. Bank unions are joining the strike to protest against banking reforms and mega-merger of PSU banks.
They are also demanding a pay hike besides a uniform five-day week. Ten central trade unions -- INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC -- are expecting that around 25 crore people will join their nationwide strike call in protest against the economic policies of the government.
Mr Venkatachalam says, "Some of our important demands are control prices, create more jobs for the unemployed youth, guarantee right to job and right to wage, ensure job security, do not outsource permanent jobs, adversely amend labour laws, curtail trade union rights, and weaken social security schemes, ensure minimum wage of Rs21,000, provide pension and bonus for all, scrap new pension scheme (NPS), do not privatise public sector, privatise or merge banks, increase interest rate on deposits and recover bad loans of banks."
AIBEA wants the government to strengthen public sector banks and not to privatise these lenders. Mr Venkatachalam says, "Banks today have deposits worth about Rs130 lakh crore, which represent hard earned savings of common people. Public sector banks should be further strengthened to safeguard this precious savings of the people kept in banks as deposits. But Government wants to implement their banking reform policies aimed at privatisation of banks and deregulation of rules in favour of the corporates. If Banks are privatised, there is risk for people's money as private corporate owners will use this money for their own business purpose and not for national development."
The union also highlights lack of bank branches across the nations, especially in rural areas, when the government is busy merging banks and thus closing more braches. "There are 5 lakh villages where there is no bank branch. When more and more bank branches are to be opened in the rural areas, the government is talking of merging banks and closing more branches. This will make banking less accessible to common people. Already, the Government told the Parliament that after merger of associate banks with State Bank of India (SBI), about 6,950 branches have been closed and merged," it added.
The AIBOC has issued a circular asking its members to not demand nor accept any keys on Wednesday. They have also been asked to not perform any clerical duties and join the protest.
SBI, India's largest lender, however says it expects little impact on its operations. The lender has announced that since only a few of its employees are part of the striking unions, the impact on its operations will be minimal.
"The membership of our bank employees in unions participating in the strike is very few, so the impact of the strike on banks operation will be minimal," SBI has told stock exchanges.
Another public sector lender, Bank of Baroda, which is the third-largest bank in India, fears that its operations could be affected. In a regulatory filing, the bank stated, "The bank is taking necessary steps for smooth functioning of bank's branches and offices on the day of the strike in the event the strike materialises, the functioning of the branches and offices may be affected or paralysed."
Syndicate Bank has issued a public notice asking customers to bear with them and make transactions before the bank strike on 8th January. It is to be noted that public sector unit (PSU) banks are likely to be among the most affected by the strike.