HSBC, Britain's biggest banking group has provoked union anger with plans to cut costs by moving some 4,000 processing and call centre jobs to Asia over the next two and a half years.
The move will represent the single biggest outsourcing of jobs to Asia by a British company and comes only a day after it emerged that the National Rail Enquiries service was also considering moving to India.
HSBC has already transferred 3,000 jobs abroad. Its new plans involve the closure of all four of its administrative processing centres in the UK and the transfer of operations to India, Malaysia and China. HSBC made profits of £4.2bn in the first half of this year but claims that the switch is the only way it can compete in a global market. Earlier this year, it cut 1,400 jobs from its UK head office, blaming increases in employers’ National Insurance contributions and the government’s decision to force banks to pay interest on accounts for small businesses for the move. HSBC said it hoped most of the new job losses would be voluntary but admitted some could be compulsory. Some 1,500 jobs will go in 2004, a further 2,000 in 2005 and 500 in 2006.
Financial union Unifi reacted furiously to the decision. Spokesman Rob O'Neill said that now the gloves were off and that they would fight the move "tooth and nail".
“Unifi has managed so far to ensure there have been no compulsory sackings but the "world's local bank" has shown that if the job can be done cheaper somewhere else then they will move it. It is profit before people," he said.
“The world's local bank needs local people to deliver the high quality service its UK customers have come to expect. What is proposed is purely profit-motivated and does not balance the interests of staff, local communities or consumers in the UK with those of shareholders. They might as well tear up any corporate social responsibility statements about caring for stakeholders.”
But HSBC Chief executive Bill Dalton said: “This is the next stage in a process which started three years ago. It is essential to HSBC's continued success.
“As one of the world's largest financial services companies HSBC has a responsibility to all its stakeholders to remain efficient and competitive. This is the best, indeed, the only way, of ensuring job security for our staff worldwide.”
Earlier this month, analysts Gartner estimated that 750,000 British jobs will go offshore, including about 50,000 from senior management, over the next decade, a trend that Glaxo Smith Kline’s chief executive, Jean-Pierre Garnier, described as representing “a significant public-policy challenge for governments and societies, especially in the US and Europe.”