The banking unions said they would re-engage with the government on the issue of re-privatization of public sector banks and try to convince them otherwise,
The two-day nationwide strike by public sector banks (PSB) unions ended on Tuesday, with disruptions in services such as cash withdrawals, deposits, check clearings, remittances and approvals of loans hitting customers. Commercial transactions as well as government treasury operations have also been affected.
The United Forum of Banking Unions (UFBU), made up of nine banking unions – AIBEA, AIBOC, NCBE, AIBOA, BEFI, INBEF, INBOC, NOBW and NOBO – called for a strike to protest against the government’s decision to privatize two more public sector lenders.
“The strike was a great success, the employees and management supported us. The way they participated and slogans shows very clearly their disapproval of the government’s decision.
“We got the support of all the unions, some farmers’ organizations, many political parties supported us,” AIBEA General Secretary CH Venkatachalam told PTI.
In a statement, the Indian Trade Union Center (CITU) commended participating employees and leaders across the country for protesting “against the measures taken by the BJP government to privatize public sector banks.”
“About 10 lakh bank employees and executives participated in the strike called by the United Forum of Banking Unions (UFBU), crippling the entire banking sector.
“The common platform of trade union centers and almost all independent industrial federations in the country gave its full support to the strike. Tens of thousands of workers took part in protests across the country in support of the strike,” said the CITU.
Venkatachalam said the banking unions will re-engage with the government on the issue and try to convince them that the proposed move is not in favor of the economy or the general public.
He said that if the Center finds there are problems in the functioning of public sector lenders, the banking unions will try to address those concerns.
Before going on strike, conciliation meetings were held with the Chief Commissioner for Additional Labor on March 4, 9 and 10. The UFBU offered to reconsider the strike on condition that the government reconsider its decision, he said.
“Again, we will tell them, whatever the grievances against the functioning of the public sector banks, we are ready to speak and we will address the concern and then there is no need for privatization.
“But still if you are not convinced … then more strikes will occur. If they are not ready to listen to us and move forward with their decision on the back of their strength in Parliament, then there will be more strikes in the future, ”Venkatachalam warned.
Banking unions claimed that up to 10 lakh workers participated in the two-day pan-Indian strike. Normal banking services have been hit hard as a result of the strike, the Indian Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech on the Union budget for 2021-2022 said the government will privatize two more public sector banks in the future. The government has already privatized IDBI Bank by selling its majority stake to LIC in 2019, and has merged 14 public sector banks in the past four years.
The banking unions have said that the PSBs are making operating profits and that there is no need to privatize them. In March 2020, these banks made a total profit of Rs 1.74,000 crore. However, as the banks provided 2,000,000 crore rupees for bad debts, there was a net loss of 26,000 crore rupees, they said.
“Therefore, if bad debts are collected from private companies, banks will earn a lot more. The private sector is responsible for the huge bad debts. In fact, they should be punished for this crime. But the government is rewarding them by handing the banks over to the private sector, ”AIBEA said.
Seeking the cooperation and support of the people in their “fight to save the PSBs,” the banking unions said if the government followed through on its decision to privatize the lenders, they would have no choice but to step up. still their turmoil with more prolonged strikes.
CITU urged bank employees to step up the fight to prevent public sector banks from being sold to companies, both Indian and foreign.
“The CITU and the Joint Trade Union Platform have already supported the national strike by general insurance workers on March 17 and that of LIC of India employees on March 18 against privatization. “CITU members will actively participate in solidarity actions on these days,” he added.