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One Million Indian Bank Workers Plan Two-Day Strike

About 1 million Indian bank employees plan to stay away from work in a two-day nationwide strike that starts Feb. 10, demanding higher salaries and protesting the policy of allowing private companies in banking.

The United Forum of Bank Unions has given a notice to the Indian Banks Association about the proposed walkout, State Bank of India, the nation’s biggest lender, said in a stock exchange statement today.

“Our demand is for at least a 20 percent wage increase, against the 10 percent offered by the management,” B.K. Awasthi, president of the All India State Bank Officers’ Federation, part of the United Forum, said by phone. About a million “employees from clerks to officers are expected to participate,” he said.

The protest comes at a time when Indian lenders are grappling with the highest proportion of soured debt and the worst economic slowdown in a decade. Stressed assets, which include bad debts and restructured loans, rose to 10.2 percent of total debt, the highest in a decade, as of Sept. 30, data compiled by the central bank show.

Federal Bank Ltd. said today that its workers’ union is also participating in the strike and operations at its branches are likely to be affected on those days. IDBI Bank Ltd. said in a separate statement that some of its employees intend to participate in the protest.

Alpana Killawala, a spokeswoman for the Reserve Bank of India, couldn’t immediately be reached through phone or e-mail.

The average gross bad-loan ratio may increase to 4.6 percent of total advances by September 2014 in a “baseline scenario,” the Reserve Bank of India said in a financial stability report on Dec. 30. The ratio advanced to 4.2 percent as of Sept. 30 from 3.4 percent in March, the report showed.

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