NUBE rebukes HSBC for refusing to discuss VSS

j-solomonPETALING JAYA: The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has rebuked HSBC Bank Malaysia for introducing a Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) to reduce its employees without discussing it with the union beforehand.

NUBE general secretary J Solomon said the union only came to know about the exercise when it received a letter from the bank.

He claimed the bank refused to discuss the VSS.

“They refused to discuss where the work done by staff accepting the VSS will be delegated to.

“Also, they refused to honour a signed agreement with us to engage in discussion and jointly find solutions to restructuring exercises that affect workers,” he told FMT today when asked to comment on the matter.

Solomon had previously claimed that HSBC Bank employees affected by the VSS scheme came from the lowest-income group.

Solomon said the VSS essentially meant the employees volunteering to sever their employment contract.

“That is why employers prefer to use VSS to retrench workers.

“The staff cannot sue the bank. The union can only assist by trying to make them understand the legal implications of the VSS.

“However, in most cases this is a futile effort as the workers take the VSS because they fear an uncertain future by remaining in the bank. It is pretty much a dead end,” he said.

Solomon said staff offered the VSS were told that if they did not accept it, they might be redeployed, relocated or made redundant.

“This is a very subtle threat to the staff. A classic example is the staff who was transferred to a bank branch located 60km away from his current workplace despite his health condition,” he said.

Solomon was referring to T. Sethupaty, an active NUBE member, who was given the VSS letter on Feb 13 but refused to accept the offer.

He said Sethupaty was then issued a transfer letter to the branch, instructed to hand over his work and report this month at his new workplace.

Solomon claimed HSBC was outsourcing the union representative’s job functions to a company operating from the bank’s premises.

Attempts by FMT to reach HSBC for comments have been unsuccessful.

According to Solomon, over 230 HSBC employees had been laid off through two previous VSS exercises, one early last year and another in February this year.

Those who left through VSS were aged between 30 and 45, and were long-serving non-executive employees comprising drivers, messengers, clerks and special grade clerks.

He said over 80% of HSBC’s employees were NUBE members, adding that a collective agreement covered all non-executive staff in HSBC.

The collective agreement is between NUBE and the Malayan Commercial Banks Association, of which HSBC is a member.