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Bank unions to protest against consolidation of state-owned banks

Fearing further shrinking of space for public sector financial institutions, bank unions of staff and officers will launch an agitation against the consolidation and privatisation of state-owned banks.

The government must rethink on further consolidation before seeing the impact of previous rounds, Union leaders said.

Ahead of the 53rd anniversary of bank nationalisation, United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) will hit the streets from July 17 to protest against privatisation and consolidation of public sector banks (PSBs).

Banks employees and officers’ organisations will take to Twitter on July 17, a day before Parliament’s monsoon session commences.

They are opposing the idea of further consolidation for reasons like adverse effect on job opportunities, damage to customer services and issues with information technology integration. They feel that there is a need to review the working at existing banks, which went through merger and amalgamation.

CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) said, top officials at banks (where consolidation happened) are telling the government that everything is okay. That is all. Nobody is throwing light on the ground-level situation.

Unions have flagged problems like closure of branches, IT integration not seamless and customers not being happy.

There are so many issues. All complaints get the same standard reply “we are attending to it,” they said.

Unions said there are definite problems with consolidation. The senior bankers do not have adequate expertise to run big-sized banks, union leaders said.

Consolidation through mergers reduced the number of PSBs from 27 in 2016-2017 to 12 now.

In the first significant exercise, State Bank of India (SBI) merged five subsidiaries and Bhartiya Mahila Bank with itself.

This was followed by the merger of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda in 2019.

Then there was a large-scale integration exercise in 2020 where Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India merged with Punjab National Bank. Also, Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank folded into Union Bank and Syndicate Bank merged with Canara Bank.

C J Nandakumar, president, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), said consolidation is just a preclude to privatisation. According to him, the exercise (consolidation) has been a failure. The mergers have made little difference to services and working. In fact, challenges have only gone up for employees after consolidation due to problems in human resource and systems integration, Nandakumar said.

S. Nagarajan, general secretary, All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) said unions will oppose it as this (consolidation) is shrinking the space for PSBs.

Around 7,800 branches of PSBs have been closed while private sector counterparts have opened 4,500 branches. These are mostly at places where PSB branches were located.



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