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Bank strike affects ATMs, cheque clearances

AtmsSome eight lakh bank employees across India began their two-day strike Monday seriously impacting banking services across the country. The employees are demanding an increase in their wages even as they oppose reforms in the sector. Employees of the public sector banks and some private and foreign banks joined the strike called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). In many places ATMs ran out of cash and cheque clearances were adversely affected. The employees have been demanding increase in their salaries as an existing agreement has ended in October 2012. Indian Banks Association, the apex organization of the banks, has agreed to a 10% increase, but this has been rejected by the employees, who then gave the strike call. Their demand is 30% increase. IBA maintains that banks are under stress due to bad loans and increase in cost of pension. Finance minister P. Chidambaram, speaking at the 78th foundation day of Indian Overseas Bank, had appealed to the strikers to recognize that bank profits could not be used only to enhance salaries as they must be invested in expansion of the banking activity. UFBU is the umbrella organisation of five employee unions and four officer unions of state-run banks. All nine unions under its aegis have given the strike call. With the strike slated to continue Tuesday, customers face the prospect of more ATMs running dry without cash replenishment. UFBU had earlier called a strike for 20-21 January, which was deferred after IBA increased its initial offer to 9.5%, from 5%, with a promise to improve it further.

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