Indian bank workers strike over outsourcing

Indian bank workers strike over outsourcing

Around half a million workers at state-run banks in India have staged a walk out to protest against the planned outsourcing of payment clearing operations to private companies.

According to a press reports, nearly 500,000 bank workers joined the one-day strike, which affected more than 50,000 of the country's 65,000 bank branches, although around 200,000 staff at state-run State Bank of India (SBI), which controls around a quarter of banking assets in India, did not participate in the strike.

The All India Bank Officer's Association (AIBOA) joined with two smaller unions to organise the protest. The unions say outsourcing would threaten 250,000 banking jobs in the country.

The workers are protesting against proposals from the Reserve Bank of India to allow financial services firms to outsource retail payments processing to outside agencies.

Unions and staff are also calling for the Indian government to stop selling off large stakes in state-run banks and to put limits on foreign direct investment. Protesters also want broader pension coverage for bank staff.

India has one of the world's largest and most robust outsourcing industries and many foreign financial services firms have outsourced operations to private companies in the country. Despite the public backlash in Western countries against offshoring, banks including Lloyds TSB, JPMorgan Chase, Wachovia, UBS, Credit Suisse and ANZ are all establishing or extending offshore centres in the country.

However the Indian unions say their protest is different from that of workers in richer Western countries who have lost jobs to India. RJ Sridharan, general secretary of AIBOA, told the Financial Times that India is a labour-oriented country "so we need more jobs that are secure" and that developed countries "have fewer hands to work".

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