HSBC faces strike threat as talks on pay break down

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HSBC could face a wave of damaging strikes across its UK branches and call centres beginning on 27 May after negotiations over a pay dispute failed.

Senior representatives of Amicus, Britain's biggest private-sector union, from across HSBC have held a council of war to plan a series of one-day strikes, with the first one to fall on the day of HSBC's annual shareholder meeting on 27 May.

Ballot papers are due to arrive on 20 April, the same day staff receive their monthly pay slips. The union plans to hand out leaflets to the bank's customers to explain the action.

Staff are furious over plans to cut bonuses. Amicus claims that of 25,000 staff covered by its negotiated pay arrangements, up to 10 per cent will get no pay rise at all this year and a further 40 per cent will get below-inflation rises and a cut in their bonuses. It highlighted the fact that the average annual pay for a cashier is only £12,500.

Michael Geoghegan, the head of HSBC's UK arm, has said that 70 per cent of staff would get pay rises of above 3.5 per cent and less than 2,000 would get no increase.

The bank said it was spending £162m on clerical and management pay rises and bonuses, and that seven out of 10 clerical staff would get a bonus of more than 10 per cent of annual salary. It claimed two-thirds of staff earn more than the industry average in the UK.

Richard Beck, a spokesman for HSBC, said: "We hope that staff feel they are being rewarded and sharing in the success of the company."

The strike would begin on Friday 27 May, just before the spring bank holiday, leaving customers unable to make proper transactions for four days. Call centres and processing centres will also be balloted.

Amicus first threatened strike action last month, on the day HSBC unveiled bumper profits of £9.1bn, the biggest ever reported by a UK-based bank. Sir John Bond, the chairman, was rewarded with a pay package that rose 70 per cent to £3.6m last year, including bonuses worth £2.4m.

Rob O'Neill, Amicus's national officer, said: "Through a series of rolling days of action we are going to reach out to HSBC's customers and shareholders to tell them why we feel we have to take this action.

"At a time when HSBC has made record profits for a UK bank, it is cutting the pay of exactly the same staff who've delivered the customer service and shareholder value that has made HSBC the UK's most successful bank."