New Delhi: Beginning their four-day relay strike to press for wage hike, public sector bank (PSB) employees in southern region went off work today and while their counterparts in North India will follow suit tomorrow.

All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam claimed that about 22,000 branches of PSU banks were closed in South India and 1.5 lakh employees took part in the strike.

The Chennai Clearing house centre which deals with the Southern Grid was affected by the strike. About 2.50 crore cheques worth about Rs 1,75,000 crore were reported to be held up for clearance due to strike, Venkatachalam claimed.

However, private sector banks continued to function normally in six states and one Union Territory where PSBs' employees went on strike.

"Since the conciliation meeting with Indian Banks' Association failed to reach a conclusion yesterday, the strike was forced upon us," United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) Convener M V Murali told PTI. UFBU is the umbrella organisation of nine bank employees and officer unions.

As part of four-day relay strike to press for wage hike and other demands, public sector bank employees will go on strike in northern region tomorrow.

Normal banking operations in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi would be affected due to the strike.

Some of the banks have already informed their customers about inconvenience due to the strike. Subsequently, there would be strike on December 4 by the eastern zone, and on December 5 by the western zone.

This is the second strike by bank employees in less than 30 days. The last strike was on November 12.