Banking services were affected on Wednesday after close to 1 million workers of all state-run, old-generation private sector and some foreign banks went on a one-day strike opposing the merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with stronger peer Bank of Baroda.
The day-long strike, called by the United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of nine unions, including the All-India Bank Officers Confederation, the All-India Bank Employees Association and the National Organisation of Bank Workers, among others, was the second nation-wide strike within a week.
An officers union of state-run banks went on a strike last Friday as well as demanding immediate salary hikes and opposing the merger of the above-cited public sector lenders.
The unions Wednesday claimed that banking services, including deposits and withdrawal at branches, cheque clearances and issuance of demand drafts, among others, were affected across the country due to the strike.
In Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat alone, cheques worth Rs 2 trillion were held up, a union official claimed.
Meanwhile, reports from Indore, quoting the United Forum of Bank Unions' MP unit coordinator MK Shukla, said services at about 7,000 branches of state-owned banks were impacted in Madhya Pradesh due to the strike. He claimed that the services at some private sector lenders also got affected.
Senior bankers, however, claimed that most operations were normal.
"We had deployed senior officials at all cheque clearing centers so that our customers are not affected. All other operations like treasury were also functioning," said a senior official from a state-run bank.
Unions are claiming that the merging Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda is not in the interest of the banks or their customers' but in fact is detrimental to both.
In September, government announced merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda. The merged entity will have a combined business of Rs 14.82 trillion, making it the third largest bank after State Bank and HDFC Bank.
"This merger will see a large number of branches getting closed and customers will have to face hardships as already banks are burdened with the implementation of various government schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Mudra, social security insurance, PM's housing scheme etc," the union said.
Despite the opposition, government had last week accorded in-principle approval for the merger of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank with BoB.
Post-merger, the number of state-run banks will shrink to 19 from 21 now. The merger comes after SBI merged its five subsidiary banks with itself and apart from taking over Mahila Bank last year, which catapulted it to be among top 50 global lenders.
Last week, around 3.20 lakh officers of state-run banks were on a one-day strike opposing the merger and also seeking immediate wage revision.
Bank managements have mandated the industry lobby Indian Bank Association to negotiate wages for employees in the scales 1-3 but unions want this to be raised to scale 7.
The wage talks are on for the past 13 months between the unions and industry lobby, the latter has offered a wage revision of 8 percent. In the past wage settlement, which was for the November 1, 2012-October 31, 2017 period, employees got a 15 percent hike.