Close to nine lakh employees of various state-run banks will go on a two-day nation-wide strike beginning Thursday, December 16, to protest against the government's move to privatise two public sector lenders, union leaders said. Most of the banks, including State Bank of India (SBI), have already cautioned their customers about the strike's possible impact on banking operations like cheque clearance and fund transfer.
A conciliation meeting before the Additional Chief Labour Commissioner on Wednesday failed, so unions are going ahead with their planned strike, All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary Soumya Datta said. The government had in Budget 2021-22 announced its intent to take up privatisation of two public sector banks (PSBs) during the year.
The two-day strike on December 16 and 17 was called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). UFBU is an umbrella body of nine unions, including AIBOC, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW). AIBEA General Secretary CH Venkatachalam said representatives of unions, Indian Banks' Association and finance ministry participated in the conciliation meeting.
"We reiterated our stand that if the government would assure that the Bank Privatisation Bill (Banking Laws Amendment Bill, 2021) would not be tabled during this session of the Parliament, we would be inclined to reconsider the strike but the government could not give any such assurance to us," Venkatachalam said.
Unions tried their best to avert the strike to avoid inconvenience to the public but the government was not forthcoming, he said, adding that the strike has been called to defend and preserve PSBs.
UFBU's Convenor (Maharashtra) Devidas Tuljapurkar said around nine lakh bank employees and officers from various public sector banks, old generation private sector banks and regional rural banks will participate in the strike.
Public sector banks have always been at the forefront in implementation of various government schemes, including demonetisation, Jan-Dhan Yojana, social sector insurance schemes and Mudra schemes, he told reporters on Wednesday.
He claimed that if PSBs are privatised, then bank branches in rural and backward regions will be closed and implementation of all the government schemes meant for socially and economically weaker sections will get affected.
Tuljapurkar said bank employees right from sweepers to senior executives in scale 5 will observe the two-day strike and protests would be held across the country. In Maharashtra, around 60,000 bank staffers will go on strike.
On Monday, all public sector lenders including SBI requested unions to reconsider their decision and refrain from participating in the strike in the interest of customers, investors, and banks. Considering the ongoing pandemic situation, resorting to a strike will cause great inconvenience to the stakeholders, SBI had said.