HSBC employees not reporting for work Tuesday as strike intensifies

MUBE president William Portelli says that so far industrial action has been successful, with up to 90% of HSBC’s 900-person workforce obeying the directives.

Industrial action by the Malta Union of Bank Employees at HSBC Malta will continue tomorrow Tuesday, as there are no signs of rapprochement between management and the union being made over the weekend.

The drastic sit-in by HSBC employees this week left hundreds of clients unable to access banking facilities, but the union said the action was a gradual escalation of workers’ protest at HSBC’s intransigence over negotiations on a collective agreement.

On Monday, HSBC employees will not be reporting for work after the bank threatened them with a lockout, suspending pay for workers who obeyed the MUBE directive.

MUBE president William Portelli said that so far the industrial action has been successful, with up to 90% of HSBC’s 900-person workforce obeying the directives.

“The escalation has been coming since HSBC unilaterally reneged on a collective agreement that we hammered out back in August 2014, having spent the whole year since August 2013 discussing. Then the bank came back, unilaterally refusing the financial package and instead offering workers a much smaller package,” he said.

Since the communications ban that MUBE ordered earlier this week, there has been “no concrete proposal” from HSBC, Portelli said.

The Malta Employers Association has also been asked to mediate in the dispute, Portelli told MaltaToday.

“We have only taken this kind of action, having arrived at this point after the failure of the collective bargaining process,” the union boss added.

MUBE has insisted that HSBC must “make a better effort” to bargain fairly and be practical with all categories of staff across the board... [We’re] seriously concerned with HSBC’s behaviour and attitude towards the local workforce, which is undermining career prospects to local hardworking employees. The union cannot accept such an intransigent approach to negotiations whereby the bank has decided to unilaterally withdraw an originally agreed collective agreement at the end of last August’s negotiations.

The union said that no reasonable efforts to seriously negotiate were forthcoming from HSBC management, aggravated by unacceptably low increases in salary and mediocre bonus awards which emanated from a unilateral decision taken by the bank outside the collective agreement negotiations.

The union said that HSBC was adamant on holding back on local negotiations, while management was effectively spending much more on international recruits with ‘hefty’ financial packages.

The MUBE has demanded a 0.85% staff home loan rate, a salary increase starting with a percentage much higher than 1% salary, and a reduction on the rate of staff homeowner loan maxi-credit.

“The CEO is very incorrect when saying that the bank remains committed. As we have already stated, the bank should be seriously concerned with retaining good loyal performing staff long-term and not obsessed with cost cutting and profitability,” the MUBE had said in past weeks on the escalation of the dispute.

The union said that the management was ignoring the fact that international recruitment was costing the local operation heavily. “The extra expense is hitting hard the categories represented by the collective agreement plus remuneration to the GCB 4 grade. This effectively is demotivating most of the workforce and not allowing the local group to seriously compete with its rivals in the sector.”

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