However, private sector banks like ICICI Bank were working as usual. Most of the public sector banks including SBI had earlier informed their customers of inconvenience if strike materialises. However, in a relief to bank customers, all the banks, including private sector lenders which were not part of the strike on Friday, would be working full day on Saturday.
The United Forum of Banks Unions (UFBU), an umbrella organisation of nine bank employees and officers unions representing 8 lakh staffers, has gone ahead with the strike, affecting services like cheque clearances, cash deposit and withdrawal at branches and other facilities.
"The All India State Bank Officers' Federation and the All India State Bank of India Staff Federation are members of UFBU. Thus, it is likely that the bank will also be impacted to some extent by the said strike calls," SBI had said in a statement. According to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary, C H Venkatachalam, normal operations at branches across all PSU banks were affected. The conciliation meeting with the Chief Labour Commissioner on July 26 did not yield any positive results. However, UFBU is willing to reconsider the strike call if the government considers their demand and addresses it.
"The unions were ready for meaningful discussion, but the government only tried to justify their present policy decision on banking reforms and hence, there was no meeting point," he explained. Unions, which are protesting FDI in banking sector, are pressing for various demands, which include one not to privatise public sector banks and increase private capital in such banks, he said.
Moreover, services at around 4,000 bank branches in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were hit. All India Bank Employees Association Secretary B S Rambabu said clearing operations across the two states were paralysed as almost 70,000 employees working in various banks participated in the stir.
"About 4,000 branches in both the states (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) have been shut down today as part of the strike. Processions were held at all important locations throughout both the states," Rambabu said.
Around 20,000 employees working in 2,800 branches and offices of Andhra Bank across the country along with 10 lakh bank employees and officers participated in the nation-wide bank strike, Andhra Bank Award Employees' Association said in a statement.
The Association has demanded that the government take stringent measures to recover loans from defaulters and declare willful default of bank loans as criminal offence. Banking operations came to standstill in some 15,000 bank branches in West Bengal due to the strike by the bank unions. Nationally, some 80,000 bank branches were affected due to strike.
Merger will be completed by March-end: SBI Chair Arundhati
Unfazed by nation-wide public sector bank strike, SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya on Friday said the merger of 5 associate banks and Bhartiya Mahila Bank with the state-owned lender should be over by next March. "People have to understand that the change is inevitable.
There have been strikes at many occasions but we have to educate them and take them on board," she said on the sidelines of the launch SBI's wealth management offering called 'SBI Exclusif'.
Services at around 80,000 bank branches in the country were hit today as employees of public sector banks went on a one-day strike to protest against the proposed merger of SBI associates with the parent among other issues. Asked as to when the proposed merger would be complete, Bhattacharya said: "Timeline is around by the end of the financial year (for merger to get over)."
On completion, the merger is likely create one of the largest banks in Asia. The merged entity will create a banking behemoth, which can compete with the largest in the world, with an asset base of Rs 37 lakh crore or over $555 billion. SBI alone has close to 16,500 branches, including 191 foreign offices, spread across 36 countries.
SBI has five associate banks -- State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore and State Bank of Hyderabad. Of these, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Hyderabad are unlisted. The last merger of its associate State Bank of Indore took about 55 weeks, but it would be significantly less this time, the official added. SBI first merged State Bank of Saurashtra with itself in 2008. Two years later, State Bank of Indore was merged.