Banking services in public sector banks remained paralysed in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh as bank employees went on two-day long nationwide strike to press for various demands, including wage revision.
Agitating bank employees under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) carried out protest rallies and held demonstrations at several places including Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Sangrur, Amritsar, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kaithal.
Due to the strike, cheques remained uncleared while transactions like cash withdrawal, cash and cheque deposits could not be carried out.
However, financial transactions at private banks like HDFC, ICICI remained unaffected.
Industrial segment in Punjab and Haryana bore the brunt of the strike as industry representatives complained that their business transactions were adversely affected.
Addressing the gathering in Chandigarh, bank employees chastised apathetic attitude of IBA for meagre increase in the wages of employees.
"In the last round of discussions held on January 17, 2014, the IBA had improved their offer from 5 per cent to 9.5 per cent on the pay slip component with an assurance to improve further.
"During the course of the discussions, it was urged upon the IBA to improve their offer so that by further negotiations, the issue can be settled at the earliest.
Responding to our demand, IBA came forward with a meager increase of 0.5 per cent in their offer from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent on the cost of Payslip components.
A conciliation meeting held on February 6, 2014. In this meeting too, despite our best efforts to persuade IBA to improve their offer and to carry forward the negotiations, IBA remained adamant," Punjab Bank Employees' Federation Secretary Naresh Gaur said while addressing protesters.
"We have been forced to take this extreme step because of bank management's apathetic attitude towards employees' demands. We have been left with no option except to observe strike," he said.
More than 2,000 employees participated in rally here in Chandigarh under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions. On the occasion, protesters criticised the attitude of the IBA/Government for their lacklustre attitude towards the genuine demands of the employee's as wage revision which is over due by one year.
"United Forum of Bank Unions will again meet after the strike to take stock of the situation and if need be the agitation will be further intensified in the days to come," said Sanjeev Bandlish, senior Vice President, National Confederation of Bank Employees.
Banks, including the State Bank of India, the country's largest, had informed customers in advance about the likely inconvenience they would face during the strike. The unions had rejected the IBA's offer of a 10 per cent wage hike during a conciliation meeting held on February 6 with the Chief Labour Commissioner.
The offer made by bank managements was not in line with rising inflation, General Secretary of National Organisation of Bank Workers Ashwini Rana said.
"Since IBA and government did not settle our demands, the strike has been forced on us," All India Bank Employees' Association General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said.
"We are sorry that the banking public would have been inconvenienced by this strike due to the non-serious approach of the IBA by not improving their offer on wage increase and discussing our concerns on the banking sector reforms," he said.
The wage revision of public sector bank employees has been due since November 2012. UFBU is an umbrella organisation of nine bank employee and officer unions.
There are 27 public sector banks in the country with a combined employee strength of about 8 lakh. There are about 50,000 branches of these banks across the country.