coronavirus: PSB employees irked over ‘omission’ of regular branches in Covid-19 prevention circulars

KOLKATA: A large section of employees of SBI and a few other PSBs in West Bengal has raised concern over internal ‘Covid-19 Prevention’ circulars announcing a cap on staff strength for administrative offices, leaving out regular branches that are more exposed to public contact.

State-owned lenders, including Canara Bank, Union Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and Bank of Baroda, have also issued notifications in this regard, sources told PTI.

However, while many state-run banks have covered “all branches” in their circulars, which also enumerate measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, some lenders like SBI and Punjab & Sind Bank have only mentioned regional offices and local head offices — mostly involved with administration- related operations, they said.

“Such undue differential treatment has created sharp resentment in the minds of staff members. Regular footfall at the branches are far greater…. Branches are more exposed to public contact and, therefore, more vulnerable in terms of getting affected by this deadly disease, said Shubhajyoti Chattopadhyay, the general secretary of SBI Officers Association (Bengal Circle).

A March 20 notification issued by State Bank of India on ‘Covid-19 Preventive Measures’ said every staff member of local head offices/administrative offices/regional business offices will work on alternate days from March 21 to April 4, sources said, adding, “regular branches do not figure in it”.

Under this arrangement, 50 per cent of employees will attend office, while the remaining 50 per cent will work from home by rotation, they said.

Chattopadhyay said lenders such as Union Bank and Canara Bank have already issued instructions initiating restrictions on staff strength in all branches to arrest the community spread of the Covid-19.

An employee of a Kolkata SBI branch, who did not wish to be identified, said the decision to omit regular branches from the coronavirus prevention plan is “blatant discrimination” on the part of the senior management.

“We have to deal with new customers every day without any knowledge of their travel history. Also, we are exposed to currency notes and various other documents throughout the day, which are potential carriers of the virus. The bank’s action plan must include regular branches, too. We cannot be meted out such step-motherly treatment, she said.

An employee of another state-run bank said there should be a uniform directive on alternate working days.

Reacting to the development, SBI Chief General Manager-Kolkata Circle, Ranjan Kumar Mishra, said the countrys largest lender is still working out the modalities of the ‘work-on-alternate-days’ arrangement for its offices.

“It is easier to implement such a strategy for administrative blocks as a lot of their work can be done from home… However, this will be done in a phased manner over the next few weeks, and some thought is being given on to how to address the issue for regular branches. We have to ensure that there is no disruption in our basic services while also protecting each and every staff, he told PTI.

“There is no question of discrimination. For the bank, every employees safety is of concern, Mishra asserted.

He said customers are also being sensitised about visiting the branches only for urgent transactions.

Sanjay Das, secretary of the All India Bank Officers Confederation, said it has written to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar seeking reduction of banking hours in the state to 2 pm as a precautionary measure.

A few private lenders have already notified the new timings for next week, sources said.

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