Close to nine lakh employees of various state-run banks have started a two-day nation-wide strike from December 16 to protest against the government’s move to privatise two public sector lenders, union leaders said.

The two-day strike on December 16 and 17 was called by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU). In Maharashtra alone, around 60,000 bank staffers will go on strike.

Most of the banks, including State Bank of India (SBI), have cautioned their customers about the strike’s possible impact on banking operations like cheque clearance and fund transfer.

A conciliation meeting before the Additional Chief Labour Commissioner on December 15 failed, so unions are going ahead with their planned strike, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary Soumya Datta said.

The government had in the Budget 2021-22 announced its intent to take up privatisation of two public sector banks (PSBs) during the year.

On December 13, all public sector lenders, including SBI, requested unions to reconsider their decision and refrain from participating in the strike in the interest of customers, investors, and banks.

Considering the ongoing pandemic situation, resorting to a strike will cause great inconvenience to the stakeholders, SBI had said.

The government has decided to introduce the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. The Bill aims to privatise public sector banks.