Strike hits bank operations for second day

Strike hits bank operations for second day

Mumbai: Trading volume in Indian currency and bond markets was hit for a second day on Friday following a two-day strike by about 900,000 employees at state-run banks, demanding higher wages and pension.

State-run banks, led by State Bank of India, the country’s largest lender, control more than half the banking sector assets and dominate the fixed-income and foreign exchange markets.

“The strike is total everywhere. Most of the branches are closed," C H Venkatachalam, convenor of the United Forum of Bank Union, which represents all bank unions, said.

The chief labour commissioner in New Delhi has called a meeting between unions and the Indian Banks’ Association, which represents the management, at 3 pm to resolve the standoff, he said.

Normal banking operations will resume on Saturday, Venkatachalam said, adding there would be no further strike if the issues were settled.

A spokesman for the Reserve Bank of India declined to comment on the strike.

Trading volume in the bond market was low at Rs445 crore ($93 million) by 1 pm . Trading on Thursday, when the strike began, was Rs2,915 crore , compared with Rs4,350 crore on Wednesday.

India has 80 commercial banks, including 29 foreign banks and nearly 3,000 urban and rural co-operative banks.

Unions of all state-run banks as well as 12 small private sector banks, including Federal Bank, Bank of Rajasthan and Lakshmivilas Bank, are participating in the strike.

But large private sector lenders ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank were open.

M S Sundararajan, chairman of state-run Indian Bank, said he was trying to reduce the disruption in operations.

“ATMs (automated teller machines) are loaded with cash, alternative modes of distribution is also there," he said.