HSBC staff plan to take sick leave in job protest
Ng Kang-chung and Lulu Chen
HSBC employees are planning a 'sick-leave protest' next week after a rumour made the rounds that the bank will sack up to 1,000 people after the Lunar New Year holiday.
An online campaign is calling for HSBC staff to phone in sick next Thursday, when the bank reopens for business after a three-day break.
The brewing labour dispute comes as Hong Kong reported improved employment. The jobless rate fell to 3.4 per cent last year from 4.4 per cent in 2010, according to official figures released yesterday.
The latest jobless rate was 3.3 per cent for the last three months of 2011.
Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council chairman Lee Kwok-keung said: 'Some of our members heard from HSBC's human resources people that there will be mass lay-offs soon.
'It seems to be in line with the usual practice ... big companies like to fire people during a long holiday to avoid public attention. We understand that up to 1,000 people might be affected.
'We understand that some employees will stage a sick-leave protest next Thursday as an unofficial strike.'
Last September HSBC cancelled a plan to cut jobs in Jordan following a week-long protest by employees in that country. The plan had been to cut 30 employees.
In a poll the Hong Kong Banking Employees Association conducted last week, three-quarters of the 550 HSBC employees interviewed said they had suffered from anxiety since the bank announced a global restructuring plan last year. Eighty-five per cent said they would not be able to make ends meet if they lost their job.
Close to 70 per cent of the respondents said they felt clients had started to lose confidence in the bank.
HSBC announced last July that as many as 30,000 jobs were to be cut across its global banking group over three years.
In Hong Kong, the bank had plans to axe 3,000 jobs - about 10 per cent of the local workforce - with information technology and back-office positions hit the hardest.
In a brief statement yesterday, HSBC said it noted the results of the survey. On its global restructuring plan, the bank said: 'We know this is stressful for impacted people and we do redeploy our people wherever possible as a priority. We also have offered placement services to help people find jobs with other companies and counselling for individuals who need help and support.'
The bank did not mention any plan for mass lay-offs in its statement, nor did it comment on the proposed sick-leave protest.
Jobless rate in the last quarter for Hongkongers aged between 15 and 24, a drop of 1.1 points from the previous quarter