Indian bank unions strike, top banks unaffected

MUMBAI Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:20am EDT

MUMBAI Aug 20 (Reuters) - Three Indian bank unions representing some 600,000 workers are going on strike on Wednesday to protest consolidation of state-run banks, and said they will take further action if their concerns were not addressed.

But the strike does not include all bank unions, and will not affect operations of top lenders State Bank of India (SBI.BO) and ICICI Bank (ICBK.BO) (IBN.N). The Bombay Stock Exchange said trading and settlements were unlikely to be impacted by the strike.

"The strike is on," said C.H. Venkatachalam, convenor of the United Forum of Bank Unions.

"All union members of public-sector, private-sector, cooperative and regional banks are participating," he said. SBI employees went on strike on Monday and therefore were not participating on Wednesday, Venkatachalam said, while second-ranked ICICI has no union.

SBI chairman O.P. Bhatt said on Tuesday there was no employee backlash against a planned merger of SBI with State Bank of Saurashtra, and said the strike would not hinder the merger.

The unions behind Wednesday's strike, who have a presence in almost all state-run banks and some foreign banks, would stage demonstrations and hold rallies, another union leader said.

Union leaders will meet in Chennai on Thursday to plan further action, Venkatachalam said.

"The government is hurriedly pursuing mergers without addressing our concerns. We will decide on what to do next."

India has 80 commercial banks including 29 foreign banks, and nearly 3,000 urban and rural co-operative banks. (Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram and Rina Chandran; Editing by John Mair)

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