HSBC is to press ahead with plans for mass redundancies that had been put on hold at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, with around 35,000 jobs set to be cut globally.
According to an internal memo sent by the bank’s chief executive Noel Quinn to its 235,000 staff worldwide, the redundancies will be made in the medium term and almost all external recruitment would be frozen.
The plan had originally been announced in February as part of a wider restructuring programme which aims to achieve $4.5bn (£3.6bn) of cost cuts by 2022. But, in April, the bank decided to hold fire on the job cuts as it did not want to leave staff unable to find work elsewhere during the pandemic.
“We could not pause the job losses indefinitely – it was always a question of ‘not if, but when’,” said Quinn.
“I wish I could say that the next few months will see a return to normality, but that is unlikely to be the case. The reality is that the measures and the change we announced in February are even more necessary today.”
HSBC said it would try to find other internal roles for those affected, but indicated that redundancies would be likely. It is not yet known how many roles the company expects to cut in the UK.
Dominic Hook, national officer at the Unite union, said the restructuring programme had caused “great apprehension” among the workforce.
He said: “The question that must be asked today is ‘Why now HSBC?’. At present vast numbers of HSBC staff are making massive sacrifices working from home or taking risks travelling into offices and bank branches to help customers, why now?
“HSBC in the UK is a profitable and successful organisation, in no small part because of its dedicated and highly skilled workforce. The bank must stand by its team now more than ever and recognise their ongoing efforts in making the organisation effective in delivering incredible service to its customers.”
Yesterday the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of employees on payrolls in the UK dropped by 612,000 between March and May 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown hit businesses.
The unemployment rate in the three months to April increased to 3.9%, although this figure is likely to be higher now, the ONS said.