Four bank unions have announced a two-day strike, starting at midnight on 25 September and continuing till 27 September, to protest the merger of 10 major public sector banks announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month. The four unions that have called for the strike are the All India Bank Officer's Confederation, the All India Bank Officer's Association, the Indian National Bank Officer's Congress and the National Organisation of Bank Officers.
According to current RBI rules, banks observe public holidays on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. This means that banks will also be closed on 28 September, the fourth Saturday in September, making it a four-day break for banking services.
As a result, you will not be able to make deposits and withdrawals for four days and it might take considerably longer for cheques to get cleared. “The two-day bank strike, followed by two consecutive weekly offs will primarily impact cheque clearances, issuance of DD/PO, cash deposits/withdrawals and any other services availed at bank branches and ATMs. Banking consumers should work out their cash flows in advance and make adequate cash deposit or withdrawals before the bank strike," said Naveen Kukreja, CEO and co-founder, Paisabazaar.com.
While customers will be well served to be prepared for the strike, Netbanking and phone banking services are likely to soften the blow and keep some functions running smoothly. “For inter- and intra-bank transfers, digital transactions should be preferred over branch transactions as internet banking and online RTGS/NEFT/IMPS/UPI transfers are unlikely to be affected by the strike. During the week-offs, when RTGS and NEFT transactions anyways remain off, customers can use UPI/IMPS to make inter-bank fund transfers," said Kukreja.
Since 2017, two similar mergers have been carried out. The first merged five of State Bank of India's (SBI) associate banks and Bhartiya Mahila Bank with SBI, and the other merged Bank of Baroda with Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank. Protests followed the mergers, and reportedly in a statement issued in January 2019, the All India Bank Employees’ Association said cheques worth about ₹20,000 crore could not be cleared by the clearing houses all over the country due to a two-day bank strike.
In the wake of Sitharaman’s announcement of the mega mergers, a letter addressed to the chairman of Indian Banks' Association, the unions stated: "We strongly oppose and protest the government's move of merger/consolidation of public sector banks. Just adding two balance sheets will not make a resultant balance sheet stronger."
The unions have also threatened to go on indefinite strike from the second week of November in protest of "mergers and amalgamations in the banking sector". In the letter, they listed nine demands in total, including wage revision and a five-day work week for employees.