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Friday, February 19, 1999

Bank unions to strike work from March 17 as talks fail 

Our Banking Bureau  
Mumbai, Feb 18: The United Forum of Bank Unions (UBFU) on Thursday said that banks all over the country would go on an indefinite strike from March 17. UBFU's statement follows the failure of wage settlement talks with the Indian Banks Association (IBA) in New Delhi.

The unions have also decided to go on a country-wide strike on February 25 and 26. The strike is likely to cause a major embarrassment to the government as it will be held at the time of the Budget session in parliament. As many as 12.5 lakh employees are expected to go on strike indefinitely from March 17.

In a fire-fighting exercise, the regional labour commissioner of Mumbai is going to New Delhi tomorrow to work out a solution with the UBFU.

More than 300 central representatives from the nine unions have decided to gather at the State Bank of India's local head office here and take part in lunch-hour demonstration along with other bank employees.

"Talks failed due to the rigid attitude of the IBA," union sources said, adding that theywere willing to scale down their demand for a wage hike from 40 per cent to 15 per cent, but the IBA simply would not dole out more than 10 per cent.

Today's meeting follows another between the minister of state for finance, revenue, banking and insurance, MP Janardhanan, and IBA chairman, AT Panneer Selvam, and its chief executive and secretary, MN Dandelkar, on February 17.

Finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, who had met union leaders on February 9, while urging the IBA to make a "reasonable" offer, had asked unions not to follow the path of agitation. Union leaders did not give any commitment on that day.

Bankers said that every one per cent hike will cost the exchequer Rs 100 crore and a 10 per cent hike would lead to an outgo of Rs 1,000 crore.

Members of the negotiation team of the IBA were led by its chairman and chief executive while the UBFU was represented by its members drawn from nine unions.

The bank unions have blamed the non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks that have accumulated toseveral crores to the wrong lending policies of the banks. "We are not to be blamed for this staggering NPA's that have largely been due to the imprudent policies of the bank management," a senior member of the UBFU said. He said the 7th bipartite agreement should be implemented with effect from November 11, 1997.

The IBA, however, is offering a low level wage hike with prospective effect. The original offer from the IBA side was 8 per cent. The IBA has even maintained that it is ready to go on the offensive if the bank unions reject the revised offer and stick to their stance of a strike on February 25 and 26 followed by an indefinite strike from the second week of March.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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