On March 15th and 16th, Banking services are likely to take a hit as the Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) has called for a two-day nationwide strike. This strike is a mark of protest against the Centre's proposal to privatise two public sector banks.
Business Today reported, “According to UFBU and All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), 10 lakh bank employees will participate in the strike. Banking services are likely to be hit at several public sector banks (PSBs) like State Bank of India (SBI), Canara Bank and Bank of Maharashtra (BoM).”
Why are bank unions observing the strike?
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget in February, had declared the privatisation of two public sector banks as part of the Centre's disinvestment drive to generate Rs 1.75 lakh crore. Thus, a collective of nine unions is carrying out a nationwide strike against this privatisation policy.
"Other than IDBI Bank, we propose to take up privatisation of two public sector banks and one general insurance company in the year 2021-22. This would require legislative amendments and I propose to introduce the amendments in this session itself," FM Sitharaman said during her budget speech.
In 2019, the centre has already undertaken privatisation of IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake in the bank to LIC. Further, the Modi government has merged 14 public sector banks (PSBs) in the last four years.
Which bank unions are a part of this strike?
The UFBU comprises nine main bank unions, which will be involved in the strike. These are:
- All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA),
- All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC),
- All India Bank Officers' Association (AIBOA)
- National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE)
- Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF)
- Indian National Bank Officers' Congress (INBOC)
- Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI)
- National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO)
- National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW).
Private new generation private banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank and IndusInd Bank are expected to follow normal functioning. However, in the banking landscape of our country, these banks account for only one-third of banking services.
What is the impact of the strike on the common public?
Prior to the two-day strike of March 15th and 16th, banks observed a second Saturday holiday on March 13th and March 14th which was a Sunday. Thus, the majority of banking services have been at a standstill for a total of four days. Services like cheque clearances, deposits and withdrawals at bank branches, the opening of new accounts, issue of demand drafts and loan processing are likely to be impacted till March 17.
However, banks have provided the assurance that they are incorporating all required steps to allow the smooth functioning of banking units during the two days.
Although ATM’s continued to function normally, several of these located around the bus stand and railway station had dried up as they could not be replenished due to the strike.
Times of India reported, “According to All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) general secretary CH Venkatachalam, services at branch level; cheque clearance; and government transactions have been affected. Besides, money markets and stock markets are also going to face problems as payments would be impacted: he said
Thus, state-run banks like the Central Bank of India among others, have advised their customers to use mobile and internet banking services along with ATM’s to carry out transactions during the two-day strike.
Has there been any discussion between the government and unions?
The All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) stated their Additional Chief Labour Commissioner SC Joshi held conciliation meetings on March 4, 9 and 10 between the government and the unions.
AIBEA said, “From unions, we offered to reconsider the strike if the government will agree to reconsider their decision to privatise the banks. The Finance Ministry representative could not give any such commitment. The conciliation meeting did not yield any positive result. Hence, it has been decided to go ahead with the strike for two continuous days on March 15 and 16.”