Bank employees on strike today and tomorrow — ATMs, net and mobile banking likely to be the only relief

Bank employees on strike today and tomorrow — ATMs, net and mobile banking likely to be the only relief
Staffers under 'United Forum Of Bank Unions' raise a slogan in support of their demands at Buddha Smriti Park in Patna on March 12BCCL
  • Bank employees are on strike today and tomorrow to protest the government’s proposal to privatise two more public sector banks this year.
  • Unlike past mergers, where one public sector bank was combined with another, divestment this time will mean a change of ownership from public to private.
  • Most branch-related services will be unavailable during the strike, but customers will still be able to operate their mobile and net banking services or head to an ATM for cash.
Over one million public sector bank employees are on strike today and tomorrow, March 15 and March 16, in protest of the government’s proposal of privatisation.

“The Government’s announcement to privatise our public sector banks is totally unfortunate and unwarranted. The need of the hour is to strengthen public sector Banks” said the strike notice by the All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC).

Meanwhile, private sector banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank and IndusInd Bank, which account for around one-third of the market share, are expected to operate as usual.

Services that may be affected due to the stick at public sector banks:
  • Deposit and withdrawal services at branches
  • Opening of new accounts
  • Cheque clearance
  • Loan approvals
However, ATMs are expected to function normally during the course of the strike, provided they don’t run short on cash. Mobile and net banking services will operate as expected.

Why are public sector bank employees on strike?
The main demand of the unions’ is that the government should withdraw its plan to privatise state-run banks. According to Finance Minister Sitharaman’s announcement, the government plans to privatise two more public sector banks this year — apart from the sale of IDBI Bank.

Top 10 Indian banks with the most government stake:
Public sector bankPercentage of government shareholding
Indian Overseas Bank95%
UCO Bank93.29%
Punjab National Bank92.22%
Central Bank of India88.02%
Bank of India87.05%
Bank of Maharashtra87.01%
Indian Bank81.73%
Punjab and Sind Bank79.62%
Canara Bank72.55%
Union Bank of India67.34%
Source: Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA)

In the past when public sector banks went on strike, it was to oppose the merger of public sector banks — like Syndicate Bank with Canara Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce with Punjab National Bank, and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda. In the past four years, the government has merged 14 public sector banks.

This time around, mergers will mean that public sector banks will no longer be ‘public’. With the government planning on outrightly reducing its stake, public sector banks will see a change in ownership with control being given to private investors.

According to the unions, employment opportunities will shrink and jobs will be contractual rather than permanent, affecting job security. Moreover, the move would prove beneficial for whoever buys these banks but not for the depositors.


“Private banks do not entertain loans to poor people and for the priority sectors. Their aim is only more and more profit. Service charges are more in private banks and common people will be affected. Rural branches may be closed in the name of non-viability,” said the strike notice.

However, many are questioning whether or not going on strike will yield a different outcome than the numerous times the banks have travelled down this path — and failed.

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