Bank unions under the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) have declared a nationwide strike on December 16 and 17 against the proposed privatisation of public sector banks (PSBs). Close to 9 lakh employees of PSBs like State of India (SBI), Punjab National Bank (PNB), Central Bank of India will go on a two-day strike from today.
These unions are protesting against the government’s intent to privatise two public sector banks (PSBs). The government has planned to lay the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 during the ongoing Parliament session. AIBEA General Secretary CH Venkatachalam said, “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 further said that if PSBs are privatized then bank branches in rural and backward regions will be closed and implementation of all government schemes meant for EWS (economically weaker sections) will be affected.
Meanwhile, major banks like SBI and Bank of Baroda have warned the customers about likely disruptions due to the strike. Earlier this week, banks like SBI, Canara Bank, UCO Bank, Central Bank of India, Indian Bank and PNB had also appealed to the union members to withdraw the strike in the interest of the customers. SBI had tweeted, "Furthermore, considering the ongoing pandemic situation, resorting to a strike will cause great inconvenience to the stakeholders."
“This quarter ending December 2021 is crucial for our bank growth and sincere efforts are to be made by all centralities to come out of this alarming situation and exit PCA (prompt corrective action) at the earliest,” Central Bank of India said in a letter.
UFBU is an umbrella body comprising unions like 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 unions are National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO), National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW), Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF), Indian National Bank Officers Congress (INBOC) and National Organisation of Bank Workers.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced during her Union Budget 2021-22 address the government’s intent to privatise two PSBs during the year and approve a policy for strategic disinvestment of public sector enterprises. “Consideration of various issues related to disinvestment, which inter alia, include selection of the bank(s) is entrusted to the Cabinet committee designated for this purpose. Decision by the Cabinet committee concerned for privatization of PSBs has not been taken in this regard,” she said.