HSBC angered staff by rekindling plans to cut 35,000 jobs just months after suspending the drastic overhaul due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Union officials fought back after managing director Noel Quinn sent a long note to the bank’s 235,000 employees at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, saying “we couldn’t put the layoffs on hold indefinitely – it was always a question of “not if, but when” “.
Dominic Hook, the national Unite officer, said the move was “extremely concerning”, adding that “the question that needs to be asked today is” why now HSBC? “” given the sacrifices staff are currently making to deal with the pandemic.
The massive layoff plan was announced in February as part of a $ 4.5bn (£ 3.5bn) cost-cutting drive, then postponed two months later due to the pandemic, the bank saying it “would have been wrong” to let the employees go then.
However, as economic forecasts point to a tough time ahead, Mr Quinn said the bank had taken over the program and asked senior executives to cut costs in the second half of the year. First quarter profits fell 48% from the previous year.
“I wish I could say that the next few months will see a return to normal, but that is unlikely to be the case,” Quinn said. “The reality is that the measures and the change we announced in February are even more needed today.”
Staff have been told they will be placed in alternate roles where possible, although Mr Quinn said he “didn’t want to promise too much” as some will have to go. Unite said it plans to oppose any mandatory job cuts.
In February, analysts predicted 15,000 roles would go to Britain, many of them at the lender’s headquarters in Canary Wharf – nicknamed the “Tower of Doom” by some staff.
The move comes a month after HSBC rival Deutsche Bank, another of the city’s biggest employers, said it was pursuing plans to cut 18,000 jobs despite the coronavirus pandemic.
It also comes as HSBC is embroiled in a political storm that worsens after support an authoritarian crackdown in Hong Kong.