Staff protest closure of HSBC unit

GIVING SUPPORT: SBEU members showing support for HSBC members affected by the bank’s exercise.

SIBU: Some 250 members of Sarawak Bank Employees’ Union (SBEU) here braved rain yesterday to gather in front of HSBC premises in support of members affected by the bank’s decision to close its commercial banking business in Sarawak.

Kai Peng Road, usually quiet in the evenings, was turned into a hive of activities as SBEU CEO Andrew Lo addressed the members, attracting scores of onlookers, including drivers who slowed down their vehicles to catch a glimpse of the scene.

A total of 18 members from HSBC branch here joined the group to protest from 5pm to 6pm.

Speaking to reporters at the scene, SBEU general secretary Law Kiat Min said the bank’s exercise would affect 65 staff across the state, of which 19 are their members.

As for Sibu, he added that seven members were affected by the bank’s exercise.

“Following their exercise, the bank is going to offer voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to the affected staff. In the letter, they also mentioned that if the staff do not take up the offer, they would be transferred outside the state.

“In the event that they do not wish to be transferred, and by sometime in September next year, they will be retrenched,” Law stated.

He added that the union was putting forth two requests on the issue.

“Firstly, we ask for the package to be opened to all the staff as currently they are only offering to those 65 affected…then, there will be more people given the chance to apply.

“Those who applied may not be from corporate banking. So, if they are not from corporate banking, when they applied then, there will be vacancies there. They can use this staff in corporate banking to fill up those vacancies at those other departments.

“Secondly, the package that they offer is at a flat rate of 1.4 different from that in 2002. Back then, the VSS offer was at a rate of between 1.8 and 2.2 depending on the years of service.

“This time around they do not take the number of years in service into consideration. We deem this as a situation where it is not so called voluntary and hence, not reasonable.

“We are merely asking for something similar to what they offered before. In the previous offer, there was no closure, it was pure VSS as they wanted to downsize. In the current situation, they are going to close and retrench, which is more serious necessitating for better offer,” he added.

Law said they were compelled to hold a peaceful gathering as both of their requests were turned down by the bank.

He revealed that they carried out a similar gathering in Kuching last week.

He disclosed that their next stop would be Miri, followed by Bintulu.

He, however, could not tell when their exercise would stop.

The union has some 2,300 members in Sarawak, of which 500 are from Sibu.

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