Around 10 lakh bank employees will go on protest on March 15 and 16 against the privatisation of public sector banks, that was announced during the Union Budget. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that two public sector banks other than IDBI Bank would be privatised, with the government setting its disinvestment target for FY22 at Rs 1.75 crore.
Reuters had reported that four mid-sized state-run banks had been shortlisted for privatisation â€” Bank of Maharashtra, Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and the Central Bank of India. The government has already privatised IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake in the lender to LIC in 2019 and merged 14 public sector banks in the last four years.
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine unions, gave a call for a two-day strike from March 15 to protest against the proposed privatisation.
The strike comes after the conciliation meeting between bank unions and the Union government failed on March 4, March 9 and March 10. With bank employees going on strike for two days, banks will effectively be shuttered for four days including the weekend. The unions said they would reconsider their strike call if the government agrees to reconsider their decision to privatise public sector banks, but didnâ€™t get any such commitment from a Finance Ministry representative.
In a statement, C H Venkatachalam, the General Secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association, said that it would risk the savings of people, that people would not be given loans, service charges in private sector banks are higher, that rural branches will be shut for non-viability, employment opportunities will be affected, and that reserved category employees will be affected as reservation policies will not apply.
Members of UFBU include All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Officers'' Confederation (AIBOC), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE), All India Bank Officers'' Association (AIBOA) and Bank Employees Confederation of India (BEFI). Other organisations include Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF), Indian National Bank Officers Congress (INBOC), National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW) and National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO)
Both the State Bank of India and Canara Bank, in a filing with the stock exchanges, said that while arrangements have been made, it is likely that banking operations could be affected on those days.
A protest demonstration is also being held in Chennai by the United Forum for Bank Unions (UBFU) on Monday at Anna Salai.