Unions Issue Strike Threat Over HSBC Redundancies

Unions are threatening to ballot for strike action at HBSC after the UK's biggest bank warned 3,166 staff that their roles were at risk of redundancy.

The bank insisted that because of new jobs being created the number of redundancies would be 1,149 as it overhauled the way it provided financial advice to customers and demanded that staff working with its 900,000 "premier" customers, who have more than £50,000 of savings, were better qualified.

"HSBC is making staff suffer in the search for ever greater profits. The bank's behaviour is a disgrace. After making proposals to slash pensions, holidays and sick pay the bank is now slashing even more jobs," said Unite national officer, Dominic Hook.

"Staff are at the end of their tether and we will be asking them in due course if they are prepared to take part in a strike ballot to oppose this unprecedented attack by this very profitable bank," said Hook.

The day after the bank's chairman Douglas Flint warned that new rules on the way financial advice is offered to customers could lead to poorer customers being squeezed out, HSBC revealed the impact on its 47,000 staff across the UK from changes requiring customers to pay upfront for financial advice.

From 1 June, the bank is uniting all its financial advisers inside its retail bank and also axe the jobs of 942 "relationship managers" who do not give financial advice and do not hold the necessary qualifications to be able to do.

The bank refused to specify the precise the number of other roles being cut but pointed to 94 "business specialist roles" – who support small business customers – being cut while it will create 70 international business managers. Jobs in "other support functions" are also being axed.

Almost a year ago to the day, HSBC announced 3,167 job cuts, some 650 of which were again related to the regulatory changes involving the way financial advice is provided to customers.

In his first major decision since being promoted in September to run the retail bank in the UK, Antonio Simoes said: "These proposals, together with the recent removal of all sales targets for our employees and the complete decoupling of incentives from those sales, mean our customers can expect us to fully focus on serving their needs and do the right thing. Evolving and improving our culture will take time but the changes announced today are another step in the right direction."

The bank insisted it was "doing everything possible to offer impacted employees opportunities" from 2,017 new jobs that are being created. The bank said it was creating a "diploma qualified adviser workforce of 853 people" up from 571 which the necessary qualifications now.

But unions worried that staff will either be based in the wrong part of the UK or not have the necessary qualifications for the new positions.

"The cuts HSBC is making will affect the whole business and will mean fewer personal advisers serving more customers and small and medium-sized businesses getting less support when they should be getting more. These cuts are about putting profits before people and will do nothing to improve service or the image of the banking industry," said Hook.

The bank said it would offering 24-week training courses to allow staff to obtain the necessary qualifications.

Brian Robertson, chief executive of HSBC's overall business in the UK, said: "I understand change is always unsettling, particularly for those directly affected. However, I also firmly believe what we are proposing is essential in order for us to fulfil our customers' expectations."

Customers with more than £50,000 of savings and investments will now have a manager who can give them financial advice and conduct their banking requirements, HSBC said.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jill Treanor, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 23rd April 2013 14.08 Europe/London

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image: © Howard Lake

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