Bank operations hit as two-day strike begins

Nationwide protest held by employee unions against proposal for privatisation of two PSBs

Bank operations across Telangana, particularly services that customers access through branches, were impacted as thousands of bank employees participated in a two-day nationwide strike that began on Monday against privatisation.

From making enquiries, opening accounts, deposit and withdrawal of cash to seeking loans, little work was possible as branches remained closed for customers in the backdrop of the staff responding overwhelmingly to the call given by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). Cheque clearing as well as government (treasury) work also could not be carried out, multiple sources said.

UFBU convenor for Telangana R. Sriram said employees and officers, up to pay scale III, of public sector banks as well as those of regional rural banks and old generation private sector banks participated in the strike. He said an estimated 90% of the over 45,000 bank staff in the State were part of the strike against the 2021-22 Budget proposal that two public sector banks will be privatised.

A show of strength and solidarity, the strike called by the umbrella body of nine unions that represent 10 lakh bank employees and officers across the country, however, did not pose serious concerns for customers, especially in urban areas in view of the enhanced awareness and use of digital banking options.

Besides growing popularity of net banking, app-based banking as well as preference for ATMs, widespread acceptance of digital payments, for small sums too, by commercial establishments and even petty vendors ensure that a lot of shopping can be done without cash in the wallet.

The State Bank of India had replenished cash at the ATMs on Sunday too. Some employees were asked to report for work on Sunday, to stock the ATMs, as a measure to limit the inconvenience to customers, sources in SBI said. The number of machines not functional, either for want of cash or for technical reasons, however, was more than the usual on Monday. They accounted for 16% of the total of around 2,450 SBI ATMs.

Sources in another leading public sector bank said over 70% of the ATMs, of the bank, in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka zone could not be replenished. They did not rule out the possibility of the impact being higher for the customers on Tuesday – the second day of the strike.

Even on Monday, the situation varied in semi-urban and rural areas where customer acceptance and comfort with digital banking modes remain relatively low. Bankers said there were reports of people flocking to ATMs that dispensed cash. New generation private banks such as HDFC and ICICI functioned as usual. As the demand for cash increases on Tuesday their ATMs could receive more footfalls, sources in public sector banks said .

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