Banking services were hit across the country on Thursday after several employees began a two-day strike to protest against the central government’s decision to privatise two public sector banks, reported PTI, citing unions.

About nine lakh employees of state-run banks were observing the strike across the country, according to unions.

The United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of nine unions, including the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation, All India Bank Employees Association and National Organisation of Bank Workers, had called for the strike on November 30.

The decision to privatise Public Sector Banks and one general insurance firm was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget speech in February as part of the Centre’s disinvestment plan.

Sitharaman had not specified which banks had been shortlisted for privatisation, but reports suggested multiple names, including Bank of Maharashtra, Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Punjab National Bank.

Bank employees have been opposing the decision as it could put their jobs at risk.

On Thursday, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation General Secretary Soumya Dutta said it was unfortunate that the functioning of over 1 lakh bank branches have been disrupted due to the government’s attitude.

“All banking services are impacted from cash withdrawals to deposits, business transactions, loan process, cheque clearing, account opening and business transactions,” he said.

Automated Teller Machines, or ATMs, are expected to function as usual, according to PTI.

Several banks, including the State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, had already informed their customers that services would be affected due to the strike.

Central Bank of India had said it would take steps to ensure that its branch and offices function smoothly during the strike, reported News18. However, the lender had added that the banking services were likely to be hit.

Private sector banks such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank were functioning as usual.

In Maharashtra, about 60,000 employees participated in the strike.

United Forum of Bank Unions Convenor (Maharashtra) Devidas Tuljapurkar said that public sector banks were on the forefront in implementing government schemes.

Privatisation might result in closing of several bank branches in rural and backward areas, which may affect the implementation of the government schemes in those regions, Tuljapurkar said.

He added that employees of the Life Insurance Corporation and the Reserve Bank of India have also extended support to the strike.