HSBC's 1,200 job cuts spark row with union

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HSBC ran into a row over its latest round of job cuts yesterday when the main trade union representing its staff claimed the bank's announcement of 1,200 redundancies was fewer than half the real number.

The bank said the figure for cuts this year covered definite redundancies but other jobs could go through people leaving voluntarily, contracts ending and other means. The Unite union claimed HSBC had told it 2,900 jobs would go and accused the bank of covering up the true scale of the cuts.

The cuts announced yesterday include support functions, technology workers, and personnel staff but not branch staff. Two service centres will close at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, with the loss of 280 jobs, and at Newport, south Wales, resulting in 90 redundancies.

The bank will cut about 150 jobs in London, including 100 at its Canary Wharf headquarters, where 450 cuts were unveiled in December. According to HSBC's figures, it has announced 2,200 cuts in Britain since September out of a UK workforce of about 58,000. Derek Simpson, the joint general- secretary of Unite, said Leamington Spa and Newport would be hit hard by the closures and added: "Unite is furious that HSBC is misleading its staff and customers about the full extent of the devastation the announcement this morning will cause."

The union also accused HSBC of moving 500 jobs to India and splitting its service to UK customers, so that ordinary account holders would be served by Indian call centres, while Premier customers, who have at least £50,000 invested via HSBC, would be served in the UK.

The bank said regular customers would now be put through to India or other "offshore" centres for most enquiries but that Unite was exaggerating the distinction because it was a global bank with call centres around the world. Paul Thurston, HSBC's UK managing director, said he regretted the job cuts, which were being made because of tough economic conditions.

"There are difficult decisions that have to be made as we adapt to a new environment and ensure we are positioned for the future," he said.