Italy’s banking staffs have worked without protection against the coronavirus epidemic, and they may go on strike, according to the head of the sector’s main union on Tuesday.
Italy has grappled with one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks of coronavirus. talian banks have already closed hundreds of branches, reduced hours of operations, and told customers to book appointments before walking into those branches still operating.
Italy’s elderly population is dependent on help from tellers. Unions fear a surge in branch visits in early April because of pension payments. “We’re considered an essential service … but workers should not take risks,” Lando Sileoni, head of banking union FABI, told an online forum with financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
Workers in sectors deemed essential, such as strikes in the metal, chemical, textile, rubber-plastic, and paper industries are expected to start striking on Wednesday. “The last thing that Italy can allow itself is industrial conflict in a situation of national emergency,” said deputy Economy Minister Antonio Misiani on SkyTG24 television.
“Banks have gone at it alone … there is envy and rivalry … this is unthinkable. If this situation doesn’t change quickly, we’ll be forced to call a strike,” he said. Banking unions are asking for a two-week shutdown. Petrol stations on Tuesday said they would close, because they could not guarantee safety standards. Sileoni said 40%-45% work currently without the adequate gear in branches. Elderly people once paid almost daily visits to banks before the crisis.
“Bank tellers … are in contact with the public without masks, gloves or even the protective plastic barriers that post offices have introduced,” he said. Sileoni said banks had been unable to secure N95 masks for staff. One group had bought 10,000 masks. The Civil Protection Agency seized them.
“It’s been six weeks since we started asking for protective equipment and they haven’t been able to tell us when masks and gloves will arrive,” he said.