Strike call in IDBI Bank puts union leaders in spot

Chennai: The decision to strike work for four days starting March 28 by some young officers in the IDBI Bank has put even seasoned bank union leaders in a spot, who stress that there is no split in the bank officers union. Opposing the government's move to dilute its holding to less than 50 percent, the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) had given a strike call on March 28. However, a group of young officers in the IDBI Bank has called for four-day strike from March 28. As a result, the IDBI Bank will not function for nine days since April 1 too is a holiday on account of the beginning of the new financial year.  Even the strike on March 28 did not find favour with many union leaders in the banking sector as the strike day falls on Monday following four holidays beginning from Holi and Good Friday on March 24-25. "We make it a point to see that the strike is not called on a day preceding or following holiday (s)," a senior bank union leader told IANS on condition of anonymity. "There is a process to be complied with before giving a strike call, like 14-day notice. Internally, the union has to discuss the matter. We found March 28 will inconvenience the public the least as there will be three working days for them to transact," R.S. Athalye, general secretary, All India IDBI Officers Association and convenor of United Forum of IDBI Officers and Employees told IANS on Friday. However, Athalye denied a split in the IDBI Bank officers union. A sizeable number of officers in IDBI Bank are in their thirties and the four-day strike call seems to be a knee-jerk reaction without thinking about the repercussions. Athalye agrees that the government's decision to dilute its holding to less than 50 percent in IDBI Bank is a test case. If the government reduces it's holding in IDBI Bank successfully, it will do the same in other banks as well, he said. "Our fight is against the government that is going against the assurances given in parliament that the public sector character of the banks will be maintained," Athalye said. Meanwhile, AIBEA general secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told IANS that his union has given a strike call on March 28 only in the IDBI Bank and not in other government banks. "The strike call is only for March 28," he reiterated. Similarly, AIBOA general secretary S. Nagarajan told IANS that his organisation has given strike call only for March 28. "Four days of strike seems to be premature," he added. He said IDBI Bank management is approaching the court to prevent the strike. A civil court in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh has issued an interim injunction against the strike, Nagarajan said. The bank management has announced that its branches would function on March 26 (Saturday) and warned of disciplinary action against those absent on that day, Nagarajan said. Second and fourth Saturdays are public holidays for banks. "The union has asked the management on the legality of decisions made on a public holiday. We have also asked the management as to the rationale for opening the branches on a day when clearing operations are closed," Nagarajan said. Senior union leaders agreed that a four-day strike call - resulting in nine days of holidays - will be counter-productive and the public will not look at their cause sympathetically.