June 11, 2020 / 9:51 AM / a month ago

Indian bank staff want cleaner branches amid coronavirus deaths in industry

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian bank employees are demanding better cleanliness at lenders’ branches and more flexibility in staff work schedules following the death of at least 11 bankers and bank employees in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) — an umbrella body of nine unions representing nearly 900,000 employees of all types of banks in India — asked for better safety standards last week in a letter to the finance ministry and several banks, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“Employees are in panic mode,” said Devidas Tuljapurkar, convener of the UFBU’s chapter in the hard-hit western state of Maharashtra that is home to financial capital Mumbai.

The letter, which said at least 11 bank staff have died from the virus, asked that certain employees who want to, should be allowed to work from home and is demanding government insurance cover for those who do venture out.

At least 100 bankers have been affected by the virus, according to a union source and a banking source.

UFBU’s Tuljapurkar said it was not possible to know how the bank employees got infected, but said crowded public transport and contact with customers were prime suspects.

Some bankers said they are being asked to clock in extra hours due to government pressure to sanction loans amid an economic slowdown aggravated by the pandemic.

The Finance Ministry and the Indian Banks’ Association, an industry body representing lenders, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Overall, India has so far reported more than 280,000 cases with over 8,000 deaths, caused by the virus.

Over a dozen executives at state-run banks, which dominate the Indian banking landscape, said they were not hopeful about their demands.

“The only thing that has changed with this pandemic is that every communication from the bank and superiors now ends with ‘Stay healthy and stay safe,’ but on the ground level there are no changes,” said a banker in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Reporting by Nupur Anand; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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