The massive jobs cull announced by HSBC on Tuesday (June 9), in which 8,000 posts will be axed over the next two years, is only the latest instance of the bank’s blatant disregard for its most valuable asset – the workforce – and the customers it serves.
The bank has presided over a string of branch closures, including most recently in Plymouth and Peterborough, leaving many customers without easily accessible branches to manage their finances.
In 2014 alone, HSBC closed 53 branches. In fact, over the past ten years, the bank has accounted for 20 per cent of all branch closures – a phenomenon that, as UniteLive has reported, has meant that some communities, especially rural ones, have not one local branch in their area.
HSBC members now facing the loss of their already meagre income – many frontline staff earn as little as £14,000 a year, just barely above the minimum wage – have already suffered multiple blows to their terms and conditions.
In 2013, thousands of long serving and loyal HSBC staff were served with the news that their final salary pension scheme would be scrapped, leaving many low-wage workers barely scraping by with the prospect of continued hardship in retirement.
The bank also announced it would slash holidays by two days a year and also cut sick pay.
Unite national officer Dominic Hook argued at the time that the amount the money claimed it would save from attacking its staff’s terms and conditions, estimated at £46m, was a drop in the ocean compared to what those at the top were earning in bonuses alone.
“204 employees at the bank are pocketing bonuses almost four times more than the savings the company is making by attacking pensions and holidays – it’s an outrage,” he noted.
These relentless attacks on the workforce and customers have occurred against a backdrop of shameless boardroom misconduct. Story after story has revealed a brazen top brass culture in which senior executives see themselves as above the law.
Most recently, it’s been revealed that HSBC may have been implicated in the current corruption scandal in which Fifa is now embroiled. Potentially corrupt payments allegedly transacted by the bank include a $1.2m wire transfer from Miami to an HSBC bank account in New York, which eventually ended up in an HSBC Hong Kong account owned by one of the implicated co-conspirators.
Not even three months ago, HSBC made headlines in yet another scandal – leaked documents revealed that the bank had helped many of its wealthy clients evade hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.
And in 2012, HSBC admitted to facilitating money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel – the biggest organised crime syndicate in the world.
Mexico’s drug war has cost more than 100,000 lives.
And now, after committing to slashing thousands of jobs, the bank has threatened to relocate its headquarters, with some speculating it may return to Hong Kong. It’s a move seen as a ploy to pressure the government into dispensing with the bank levy – a tax that contributes billions each year to the treasury and discourages banks from risky lending.
After HSBC’s long line of iniquities, this week’s announcement comes as a further blow to the workforce, who woke up on Tuesday morning (June 8) to find their jobs on the line.
“Imagine waking up one morning to find your only source of income under threat,” said Hook. “Our members were deeply shocked by the move – it came as a complete surprise. The media has focused on whether HSBC will relocate or how it will rebrand its high street branches, but this is of little concern to staff.
“They want some answers, and they want them now – which areas of the bank will be impacted and how will redundancies be carried out?”
Unite has demanded urgent talks with the chief executive of HSBC UK, which are set for early next week. Hook said that a top priority will be the introduction of a voluntary redundancy scheme.
“You might be surprised to learn that HSBC doesn’t actually have a voluntary redundancy scheme,” Hook said.
As it stands now, redundancies are carried out at the bank on a performance, points-based system.
“But the scale of redundancies staff are facing means that a voluntary system would be most practical and most fair,” Hook noted. “They’ve said the redundancies will come over a period of two years. They’ve got plenty of time to do this properly, so that those who want to leave can leave, and those who want to stay – and there’s many loyal staff out there – will be able to stay on.”
“We will demand that members are given answers about the impact on their jobs quickly and that the redundancies will be carried out carefully and fairly,” he added. “Our members deserve to be informed about every aspect of the process, and Unite will fight for this.”