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Temur Durrani

Multi-Platform Writer


A top office landlord says some employees are “hijacking” the agenda for return-to-safe-work protocols at Canadian banks across the country.

“We have a duty to protect our employees. We also have a duty to protect our customers. We have, in addition to that, a duty to protect the communities of which we are an important part. And last but not least, we have a duty to protect investors,” said Michael Emory, chief executive officer of Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust.

“When we take account of those multi-faceted responsibilities, we understand that we need to get back to work,” he said in an interview Thursday.

This is something Emory believes is already being done appropriately in U.S. banks, where many have been quick to call staff back to offices, with and without vaccination requirements.

“I think it’s important that we not allow the minimally engaged employees in an organization to hijack the agenda.” – Michael Emory, CEO of Allied Properties REIT

“I think the vaccine mandates, and I think the vaccine passports as a mechanism for enforcing or validating the mandates, is an excellent approach,” Emory said. “But on this, we need to lead and not follow."

Still, management at most Canadian banks are taking a cautious approach. On Wednesday, the Toronto-Dominion Bank pushed back plans for returning to the office until at least 2022.

TD Bank was not immediately available for comment. In a short statement, the Canadian Bankers Association wrote: "The CBA is not involved in our member banks’ return to office plans, and therefore we won’t comment."

Far too much time and effort is being spent to cater to the demands of certain pressures in Canada, Emory believes. The real estate manager and developer handles an abundance of office buildings in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

“I think it’s important that we not allow the minimally engaged employees in an organization to hijack the agenda,” Emory said. “I think we need an agenda that is designed to serve the employees who are highly engaged and who want to get back to work in its fullest sense, and compete for business.”

Emory doesn’t want to criticize Canadian organizations without fully knowing why they are making certain decisions, but he said it “strikes me as out of step with what the U.S. banks have been doing.”

“I believe if you don’t get back to work and compete for business, your competitors will force you to lose out. I may be wrong in feeling that, but that’s certainly the observation I’ve made,” he said.

In the real estate space, organizations that have gotten back to work appear to be more successful than those who haven’t, Emory said.

This is a situation that will play out interestingly in Alberta, he added, where the province is now enforcing a slew of restrictions to confront a healthcare system threatening to collapse. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had previously denied mechanisms such as a vaccine passport, but is now introducing many elements of one.

“Ultimately, we need to compete on the ground,” Emory said. “We need to interact with one another face to face. And I think if we lose that, we will lose competitiveness, we will serve our customers less well and we will serve our communities less well and shareholders.”