While banking is an essential service, employees are not treated as frontline employees
Deaths from COVID have created fear among bank employees across the state. The staff of the nationalized and private banks are in trouble, and positive cases and deaths are added to the list every day.
Anand Kishore, 45, a bank clerk, is heartbroken when his close friend at the bank succumbed to COVID a few days ago. “There wasn’t a single day at the chest (branches of selected banks that were authorized by the RBI to store rupee notes and coins) that Suresh and I didn’t share our lunch boxes. It’s still incredible that Suresh is no more. I don’t like opening my packed lunch, ”he says.
It is one of more than 175 deaths in the state. The increase in positive cases and deaths where banking is viewed as an essential service has raised concerns in banking fraternity. More than 4,500 active cases are a worrying factor for staff.
The President of the Andhra Bank Award Employees Union (ABAEU), M. Kishore Babu, says: “So far 175 of them have died during the ‘second wave’ last month. The staff are in a panic. ”
BS Rambabu, convener of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), points out that while bank clerks were an essential service, bank clerks were not treated as frontline workers. There was no rhyme or reason for the rules and regulations of management. Although the business hours were 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., employees had to stay in the branch until 4:00 p.m. Better cleanliness in the branches and more flexibility in work schedules are required, he says.
Mr Kishore Babu says employees were asked to stamp in extra hours despite the increase in the number of deaths. The focus of banks should now be on employees being vaccinated. The government ignored the requests even though they were on the front lines, he says.
Management asked employees to submit a medical certificate in order to be on sick leave. “We are intimidated that disciplinary action will be taken if we insist on leave,” complained one employee.
There are no thermal scanners in the branches. Most branches do not have a security guard to check visitors. Due to the lack of space, it is very difficult to maintain physical distance. ” he says.