Call on Human Resources Minister Datuk Lim Ah Lek to intervene and resolve the escalating industrial dispute in HSBC Bank (M) Bhd by securing the reinstatement of all NUBE members who have been dismissed

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Sunday): DAP is very concerned by the escalating industrial dispute in HSBC Bank (M) Bhd and calls on the Human Resources Minister Datuk Lim Ah Lek to intervene and resolve the dispute by securing the reinstatement of all National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) members who have been dismissed.

The flashpoint of the HSBC Bank industrial dispute was the bank’s summary dismissal of its 15 employees who are also NUBE members on Oct. 7, 1999,  although the industrial relations between the management and the NUBE  had soured very much earlier as a result of the rationalisation and downsizing of bank operations by  centralising work processes.

When the  HSBC Bank embarked on Voluntary Separation Schemes (VSS) to reduce excess staff, the Union had cautioned the Bank not to "load" additional duties on the remaining staff not consistent or compatible with their job descriptions as the result of the downsizing of the staff numbering 1,100 employees.

Disputes over the "loading" of additional duties on the remaining  HSBC Bank staff have  resulted in the bank’s  summary dismissal of 15 bank employees and NUBE members on Oct. 7, the RM150,000 six-month freeze on annual increments of 240 employees for wearing black  as solidarity with the dismissed bank workers,  warning letters to hundreds of other employees and the two-hour lunchtime peaceful protest picket by  NUBE members in the eight   HSBC Bank branches in Penang (Downing Street and Butterworth), Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur (Leboh Ampang and Bukit Bintang), Petaling Jaya, Seremban and Malacca   since last Tuesday (2nd November 1999) supported by 20,000 NUBE members from other Banks.

Although the Human Resources Minister had met the NUBE officials on 30th October 1999, it is most regrettable that Lim Ah Lek has not been able to resolve the industrial dispute at the HSBC Bank.

The HSBC Bank industrial dispute will be a great test as to whether the Human Resources Ministry could successfully pre-empt industrial disputes in the banking  sector  or resolve them speedily when they arise  - which will become more and more frequent as a result of the rationalisation of the banking industry, particularly through mergers of banks and financial institutions.

Although Ministers and Bank Negara have claimed that  the rationalisation of the financial sector through merger of banks and financial institutions would not result in retrenchments, the HSBC Bank case is proof that this is not possisble as it must result in downsizing of banking staffs, whether by retrenchment or through Voluntary Separation Schemes, plunging the sector into a crisis in industrial relations.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong