A day-long strike by the employees and officers of the state-run banks against the merger of three public sector banks (PSBs) paralysed services across Karnataka on Wednesday, a union official said.
"The response to our strike call is overwhelming as over 1 lakh employees in about 5,000 bank branches stayed away from work to protest against the merger of Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda," All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary S.K. Srinivas told IANS.
The strike, second in a week after December 21 strike for wage revision, affected all categories of customers, as no transaction could take place though bank branches were "officially" open for business.
"Though boards of the three banks approved the merger despite opposition by their employees, the strike is to express our solidarity with them as we are against denationalisation and privatisation of state-owned banks," said Srinivas.
Defending the strike, the trade union leader said if the employees and officers do not protest against the merger of the three banks now, the government would be emboldened to merge the remaining PSBs and privatise them eventually.
"The 1969 bank nationalisation was to usher in mass banking in place of class banking, which benefit only the rich and corporates without priority lending and social commitment. This government is reversing the 50-year-old policy and undoing all that the state-run banks have done for the common man," reiterated Srinivas.
In spite of opposition by employees, including offices, the government merged the associated banks of the State Bank of India (SBI) last year, setting a bad precedence though they were affiliated to it and the latter (SBI) had majority ownership, recalled Srinivasa, who is also the General Secretary of the SBI Officers' Association.
"But the merger of SBI with its sister banks led to closure of hundreds of branches across the country in the name of rationalisation and optimisation of the workforce," said Srinivas.
As banks were closed from Friday to Sunday and again on Tuesday for Christmas, clearance of cheques and drafts were affected with no inter or intra-banking transactions.
"As we are aware of the impact the strike would have on customers, we worked on Monday to ensure them our services," added Srinivas.