HSBC Malaysia denies retrenching 600 staff

The bank is offering certain segments of its workforce a VSS which they may choose to take advantage of

by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by BLOOMBERG

HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd has denied that up to 600 of its staff will be sacked in the downsizing exercise, to be conducted in stages this year.

However, the bank said it could not disclose the total number of employees that will be affected.

HSBC Malaysia also reiterated that the scheme is voluntary and it will only be applied to employees that choose to accept it.

“We are offering certain segments of our workforce a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) which they may choose to take advantage of should redeployment not be possible.

“We are committed to providing our employees who choose to accept the VSS with comprehensive transitional support, including an above-market compensation package and reskilling programmes,” the bank’s spokesperson told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

HSBC also said this transformation will improve its customers’ experience in doing business with the bank and it will involve changes to its technology, branch footprint and the roles that some of its people currently perform.

The move will also involve creating more than 200 new roles to adapt to the evolving banking landscape and redeploying its people into these new roles.

Yesterday, the Malaysian International Trade Union Network Council-the Malaysia Labour Centre (UNI-MLC) urged the government, especially Bank Negara Malaysia, the Finance Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry, to intervene in HSBC Bank’s downsizing move during the critical time of Covid-19.

UNI-MLC president Datuk Mohamed Shafie BP Mammal said this is to ensure there are no banks, especially multinational banks, that are profiting off of employing local labour and then proceeds to close the branch by dismissing their employees on the name of VSS and mutual separation scheme (MSS).

He added that at the same time, the government needs to ensure that the opportunities of permanent jobs given to the people so far have not been outsourced to another company, either local or international.

“Such actions will undermine the permanent job opportunities for local people.

“UNI-MLC hopes the government as the regulator of the industry will act decisively, so that there are no employers and multinational organisations that take the opportunity caused by the pandemic to continue to oppress Malaysian workers,” it said in a statement.

The council also expressed disappointment over the bank’s action, which was reportedly done for the third time in six years, without the respect for national law and the Treaty Collective between employees and employers.

“We are of the view that HSBC’s action is inappropriately done. HSBC took this decision when the people and the country are battling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is already entering its second year.

“This seems as if HSBC is using the Covid-19 environment to implement their plan. This is an inhumane action. Secondly, it is also important to note that HSBC is a multinational bank which continues to record profit,” Mohamed Shafie added.

Additionally, Mohamed Shafie said it is of the view that VSS and MSS are also one improper form of dismissal by any employers, especially companies that are recording profit continuously.

“Employers should provide retraining and skills in upgrading their permanent employees if they are really being honest in wanting to strengthen operations.

“Steps such as giving VSS and MSS schemes and reducing employees just like that are not a good action, especially in terms of corporate relations between the employees, employers and the country,” he added.

Therefore, Mohamed Shafie urged HSBC to withdraw the move to offer VSS and MSS, and cancel its branch closure decision throughout the country, as it had also caused inconvenience to the customers.

In June, HSBC Malaysia announced it will be shutting down 13 bank branches nationwide effective Dec 31 this year.

The bank will close bank branches in Bintulu, Labuan, Alor Setar, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Terengganu, Teluk Intan, Batu Pahat, Bentong, Raub, Inanam (Sabah), Senawang, Sungai Buloh and Gombak.

Existing customers can continue to conduct their banking transactions at the nearest branch, automated-teller machines, telephone banking or on its digital banking platforms.

The National Union of Bank Employees had previously protested against VSS and MSS announced by the bank on June 3 this year.