Services hit as 40,000 bank employees in Odisha join strike protesting merger of banks

Bhubaneswar: Customers were having a harrowing time due to bandh call given by nearly 40,000 bank employees in the State as part of the nation-wide one-day strike by employees of nine bank unions against the proposed merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda (BoB).

Employees of nine Bank unions under the aegis of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) of Odisha unit hit the streets protesting amalgamation of the three banks. Bank emplyees staged dharna at Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Rourkela, Balasore, Sambalpur and several other towns.

The unions claimed that the merger is an attempt by the government to skip corporate loans and is not in the interest of banks or their customers.

Sambit Mishra, Convenor of Odisha unit of UFBU said the Centre wants to recover bad loans by merging the banks. But, the merger is not going to reduce the bad loan burden.

“It may be noted that earlier during the merger of six associate banks with the State Bank of India, bad loans skyrocketed, nearly 1000 bank branches were shut down and around 4000 employees were laid off. Such amalgamation will only compress the banks and in smaller developing states capital investment will drastically reduce,” Mishra said.

Earlier, the state-run bank unions had obsreved strike on December 21 seeking immediate wage revision and cancellation of merger decision. Banks were also closed December 22 and 23 on account of fourth Saturday and Sunday respectively; whereas December 25 was a national holiday for Christmas.

The series of holidays and strike has severly hit banking operations like deposits and withdrawal at branches, cheque clearances and issuance of demand drafts, among others.

Asked about the public inconvenience, UFBU convenor Sambit Mishra said, “On an individual level the cease work in banking services might not affect too much. But businesses and commercial transactions will suffer.

SP Behera, NCB Odisha unit Secretary accepted that the bandh will casue public incovinience and said that alternative arrangements have been ensured to minimise the problems. “Bank branch operations have been hit. But we have ensured adequate amount of cash on ATMs, functioning of net banking and cash deposit machine facilities for public. Besides, private banks will continue to function as usual,” he said.

The Union government in September approved the amalgamation of Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank which is the first three-way merger in the public sector banking space.