December 21, 2018 / 6:55 AM / a year ago

Indian state-owned bank officers' union calls strike over wages, mergers

MUMBAI, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Workers at India’s state-owned banks called a nationwide strike on Friday in protest at proposed mergers that could cause job losses and demanded immediate wage rises.

The strike, by the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), impacted trading volumes in foreign exchange and debt markets, said traders.

Private sector banks were not affected by the strike.

AIBOC has a membership of over two million officers and affiliates in all major state-run banks and 10 private banks. The striking officers are responsible for daily operations, causing a complete shutdown of services to customers.

The 21 state lenders hold two-thirds of India’s banking assets and account for the bulk of the record $150 billion of soured loans in the banking sector last year.

The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of the top nine bank unions in the country, also decided to hold a strike on December 26 against the proposed merger of Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank.

India earlier this year announced plans to merge the three state-run banks to create India’s third-largest bank as part of efforts to clean up the banking system, which has been overburdened by bad debts.

The bank unions say they fear the mergers will lead to job cuts and allow private sector banks to dominate the industry.

AIBOC Joint General Secretary Ravinder Gupta said the unions are demanding wage revisions based on minimum mandated wages by the government and not asking for it to be linked to profitability of the banks or their paying capacity, which could be higher. (Reporting by Swati Bhat Editing by Martin Howell and Michael Perry)

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