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FSS chief warns of stern action against opposition to normalizing banks' biz hours

14:50 January 26, 2023

SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- A financial regulator chief on Thursday warned of stern action against labor unions opposing banks' plan to "normalize" their pandemic-caused shortened operation hours as the government is set to lift the indoor mask mandate later this month.

"As far as I know, employers have determined the stance (of normalizing operating hours) after reviewing legal aspects," Lee Bok-hyun, head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), told reporters after attending a meeting with CEOs of insurers in Seoul.

"In common sense, would anyone understand if they are opposed to normalizing operating hours that have shortened due to COVID-19?" he said. "The government and financial regulators would strongly respond to opinions expressed through illegal means against a measure based on proper law interpretation and authority."

In July 2021, banks decided to temporarily shorten their operation hours by one hour from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in July in the greater Seoul area.

Employers' association of banks and labor unions agreed in October of the same year to enforce the shortened working hours nationwide in line with the government's move to tighten social distancing rules to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Banks have recently pushed to return to their normal operation hours as the government has lifted almost all virus-related curbs and plans to remove the indoor mask mandate from Monday. Complaints have also been growing that banks' shortened operating hours are hurting consumer rights.

Labor unions, however, have strongly protested the move, saying they will take legal action should their employers break the agreement and go ahead with the working hour change.

A visitor looks at a notice informing customers of the shortening of business hours by one hour at a KB Kookmin Bank branch in Seoul on Sept. 1, 2020. The step was taken at banks in Seoul and its satellite cities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The operation hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Yonhap)



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