As employees of various public sector banks prepare to go on strike on March 15 and 16 over the Centre’s decision to privatise two state-owned lenders, banking services are likely to be hit across the country.
Banks were already closed on March 13 (second Saturday) and March 14 (Sunday), leading to a four-day break in regular banking operations. Services such as deposits and withdrawal at branches, cheque clearance and loan approvals would be affected due to the strike. However, ATMs are likely to remain functional.
Private banks, like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank and IndusInd Bank, will be functioning normally, but these account for only one-third of banking services in the country.
The strike, called by The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, comes after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2021-22 announcement where she announced the privatisation of two public sector banks (apart from IDBI Bank) as part of the government’s disinvestment drive to generate Rs 1.75 lakh crore. The government has already privatised IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake to the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) in 2019 and merged 14 public sector banks in the last four years.
The government had said that privatisation of two public sector banks will set the ball rolling for a long-term project that envisages only a handful of state-owned banks, with the rest either consolidated with strong banks or privatised. This will also free up the government, the majority owner, from continuing to provide equity support to the banks year after year.
Conciliation meetings – before the Additional Chief Labour Commissioner on March 4, 9 and 10 – did not yield any positive result, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) general secretary C H Venkatachalam had said in a statement. Venkatachalam expects around 10 lakh bank employees and officers to participate in the strike.
Many public sector lenders, including the country’s largest bank State Bank of India (SBI), have already informed their customers about the impact of the strike on their functioning of branches and offices. “We inform that, we have been advised by lndian Banks Association lBA that United Forum of Bank Unions UFBU which comprises 9 major Unions, viz. All lndia Bank Employees’ Association AIBEA, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation AIBOC, National Confederation of Bank Employees NCBE, All lndia Bank Officers’ Association AIBOA, Bank Employees Federation of India BEFI, Indian National Bank Employees Federation INBEF, Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress INBOC, National Organisation of Bank Workers NOBW & National Organisation of Bank Officers NOBO, has given a call for all lndia strike by Bank Employees on 15th & 16th March, 2021. While Bank has made all arrangements to ensure normal functioning in its branches and offices, it is likely that work in our Bank may be impacted by the strike,” SBI had said in a filing to the stock exchanges earlier this week.