MILAN, March 19 (Reuters) - Italian unions welcomed on Thursday a decision by Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit to shut down 70% of its branches due to coronavirus.
The bank said last week it would leave open only a limited number of branches in each region without providing a figure.
With coronavirus deaths in Italy approaching 3,000 on Wednesday and 35,713 people infected, unions have voiced growing concern on behalf of workers employed in essential services such as banks, postal offices or food and drug stores - which are exempt from a nationwide shutdown.
Banking unions on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calling for a two-week closure of all branches.
Banks in Italy have shortened opening hours and are rotating staff to minimise their exposure.
In a joint statement, unions representing UniCredit employees said they welcomed the bank’s move, as well its decision to have workers who cannot operate remotely put on paid leave.
Rival heavyweight Intesa Sanpaolo, which has closed down 112 of its 3,500 branches, only allows into its branches clients who have previously booked an appointment for transactions that cannot be carried out online or postponed.
Italy’s ageing population is highly dependent on help from bank and postal clerks.
The country’s biggest employer Poste Italiane, the national post office, is also reducing opening hours and taking further measures after unions stepped up complaints following the death of two postmen. (Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)