The Maharashtra chapter of United Forum of Bank Unions has written a letter to Secretary of Department of Financial Services, highlighting the conditions of bank employees in the state, who have been working throughout the lockdown period. The letter stated that till now, 11 employees in different banks have died due to COVID-19 and two more deaths were suspected to have been caused by the infection.
Vishal Sonawane was working with IDBI Bank in Mumbai. He died in May due to COVID-19. Three employees of SBI, two of Bank of India, one each of Punjab National Bank, Federal Central Bank, Canara Bank and Bank of Maharashtra have died because of contracting the virus. The two suspected cases are of employees belonging to Federal Bank and Central Bank of India.
"Bank employees are vulnerable in this pandemic. They are coming in public contact everyday. It is right that the services are essential but at the same time, government has to treat the bank employees as workers for essential services. That is not happening," said Devidas Tuljapurkar, convenor of UFBU.
In the representation sent to the secretary, the UFBU has put forth nine points which would be helpful for the bank employees to continue their duties. Also, it was brought to the notice of the secretary that like other government employees, bank staff have not been given Rs 50 lakh insurance cover against COVID-19. Also, different banks are following different rules and norms in this.
Also read: Invisible on the Frontline: Bank Employees Ask for Special Insurance Scheme to be Extended to them
The major demands include: arrangements for safe transportation beyond the radius of 2km from house to workplace, sanitisation of banks on regular basis, appropriate security arrangements at all branches, banks to be run on 50% of staff and the employees should be given work from home option, employees who are above age of 50 shall be given preference for work from home, as well as employees with high blood pressure, diabetes and with other vulnerabilities or co-morbid issues should be given same work from home options.
Among other demands, UFBU has also demanded Rs 1,000 per day discomfort allowance to employees for the days they are attending work. Bank timings should be flexible for four hours as the commutation time has increased due to non availability of local trains and inadequate number of buses.
In Maharashtra, 33 bank employees have been admitted for COVID-19 till now and more than 100 employees are home quarantined. This number shows that bank employees are risking their lives while providing their services.
It should be noted that the apathetic treatment towards bank employees by both the central and state governments comes at a time when the All India Bank Employees Association has contributed to PMCARES fund as well as collected more than Rs 2.5 crore for the welfare of the people fighting COVID-19. AIBEA has also contributed Rs 1 Crore for the travelling expenses of migrant workers.
"As the number of patients among bank employees is increasing, there is a rise in their fears and insecurity. If this not addressed properly right now, then there will be serious issues in the near future. Ignoring real issues can't be the policy," commented Tuljapurkar.