KUCHING: Sarawak Bank Employees’ Union (SBEU) is calling on HSBC Bank to give a better deal to its staff who will be affected by the bank’s decision to close down its commercial banking business in the state.
Chief executive officer Andrew Lo said the union would not stop its picketing until HSBC offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) that was higher than the present offer of 1.4 times’ monthly salary for each year of service, with a cap of 36 months.
He said the present offer was the worst ever offered by any bank in SBEU’s long history, with the previous VSS package by the bank offered 2.25 times without any cap.
The union would not tolerate this for an international bank that made billions in annual profits, he said.
“The VSS offered by smaller companies are better than what HSBC is offering now. This is discrimination against HSBC personnel in Sarawak.
“HSBC is ready to fight for the long haul and so is SBEU. We love pressure as we perform best under pressure,” he said.
The union would be holding pickets in other divisions in the coming weeks and was even ready to spend the New Year’s Eve countdown picketing against HSBC until the demands were met, Lo said when addressing about 400 union members who gathered in a peaceful carnival-like picket in front of HSBC here yesterday.
Lo said the bankgroup’s move to close down its commercial banking business in Sarawak within 45 days did not meet the government’s aspiration to be a fully developed state by 2020.
He said those who refused the VSS would be transferred to either Sabah or Peninsular Malaysia as there would be no position for them in the state given that its retail banking section would not absorb those from commercial banking.
If this was allowed, Lo said the union feared that other banks might resort to the same process in the future.
Calling on members to use the social media to propagate and voice out their protest, he said they would let the whole world how HSBC was short changing its staff in Sarawak.
The state Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) chairman Mohd Ibrahim Hamid said the affected HSBC employees would not be alone in their fight against discrimination imposed by the bank’s management.
“We are humans but what the management is doing is inhumane. You are not a commodity but they are treating you like commodity,” he told them.
Ibrahim, who is also vice president of Union Network International and Malaysian Liaison Council, said they too would give their support to SBEU and the affected HSBC employees.
“This is a question of our livelihood – our families and children. And why Sarawak? Is Sarawak too bad for HSBC?” he argued.
Speaking to reporters later, SBEU secretary-general Law Kiat Min said 60 HSBC commercial banking personnel here, in Sibu and Miri would be affected by the closure.
He said they were only told of the bank’s decision early last month and had to decide whether to take up the VSS by Nov 25.
“We were told that there’s no more place for us in Sarawak and if we refuse the transfer, we will be retrenched. If VSS is voluntary, why not open up the package to other staff members in the bank? The VSS is strictly for the staff of corporate banking,” said Law, who is a HSBC employee.
He said those affected did not see this coming and was informed that this was a “business decision”.