Banking services such as cash withdrawals, deposits, cheque clearing and business transactions were impacted across the country on Monday, the first one of the PSU bank union's strike, against the proposed privatisation of two more state-owned lenders. The strike also had the support of the Youth Wing of the Congress and the Communist Party of India.
All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOC) General Secretary Sowmya Dutta said the government policies are going to have ill effects on the economy and it will be reflected in the upcoming polls in some states. He said nearly all the bank employees have taken part in the two-day strike except for top-level employees.
"All banking services are impacted from cash withdrawals to deposits, business transactions, loan process, cheque clearing, account opening and business transactions," he said.
Strike in Bengaluru
He said the striking employees have taken out rallies, wherever permitted, across the country, and given a sit-in and if the government does not listen to them they will go hold an even bigger, indefinite strike like the one on the lines of the ongoing farmers' agitation.
"We are connected with crores of population through our branches, we are educating our customers about the government's ill policies and how it is going to impact them," Dutta said.
Through the Department of Financial Services, the bank unions have also conveyed to the Finance Minister to withdraw her statement from the floor of Parliament about privatisation of the state-owned banks, he added.
All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary, CH Venkatachalam said that the strike has impacted the clearance of two crore cheques/instruments worth about Rs 16,500 crore.
"On average, about 2 crore cheques/instruments worth about Rs 16,500 crore are held up for clearance. Government treasury operations and all normal banking transactions have been affected," CH Venkatachalam told IANS.
"The strike is to save the savings of our people. The strike is to ensure more loans to priority and weaker sections," Venkatachalam added.
United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine unions, had given a call to strike on March 15 and 16 and said that about 10 lakh bank employees and officers of the banks will participate in the strike.
In the Union Budget presented last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the privatisation of two public sector banks (PSBs) as part of the government's disinvestment plan.
All bank employees from scale I, II and III had 100% participation across the banking sector in Monday's strike, according to a bank official who is not authorised to speak to the media.
"We call them assistant managers, managers and senior managers. At this level, there is 100% participation in the strike and 80-90% branches are headed by them," the official told PTI.
The bigger branches headed by chief managers or AGMs are about 20%, so even if these senior-level employees are not taking part in the strike, they alone cannot run the bank, said the official cited above.
Meanwhile, branches of private-sector lenders like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank were open, as they are not part of the strike. An HDFC bank official said thereâ€™s been no major impact from the strike on their operations. Private banks feared that their operations may also be impacted by striking unions pushing for closure at some of their branches.
The government has already privatised IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake in the lender to LIC in 2019 and has merged 14 public sector banks in the last four years.
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). Others are the 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).
With IANS and PTI inputs