Unions have condemned banking group HSBC over its plans to cut 4,000 customer service jobs in the UK and move them to Asia.
HSBC intends to switch work to Asia
The work will be transferred to China, India and Malaysia by the end of 2005, HSBC has confirmed.
The jobs will be lost from sites in Swansea, Birmingham, Sheffield and Brentwood.
Bank workers' union Unifi accused the bank of putting "profits before people", and said it would consider taking industrial action to fight the plans.
"HSBC's move will be the biggest single export of finance jobs from the UK to Asia," it added.
Staff at the four sites were told of the job losses on Thursday afternoon and HSBC said it was planning to tell the rest of the UK workforce on Friday.
Compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out, a spokesman said.
HSBC chief executive Bill Dalton said the job cuts were "essential" for the
bank'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," he
Several UK firms have begun outsourcing call centres to Asia
"This includes increasing productivity and allocating resources to both
developed and emerging markets."
Unifi said it was "very, very angry" at the prospect of compulsory redundancies.
It was also "furious" at the scale and pace of HSBC's cost cutting move - "1,500 jobs to go in 2004, a further 2,000 in 2005 and a further 500 in 2006".
Official Rob O'Neill said the prospect of compulsory redundancies meant the "gloves were off".
"We will fight tooth and nail to get the bank to
reconsider its actions," he said.
He promised a campaign with local communities affected by these redundancies,
as well as consumer interest groups, and HSBC's customers.
Amicus, which also has members among the HSBC workforce, said officials would
be seeking urgent talks with the bank to try to save as many jobs as possible.
The union's joint general secretary Roger Lyons also warned that the bank's customers and shareholders may prove unimpressed by the move.
outsource jobs without consultation with staff or policy holders must be
prepared for a backlash from the public," he said.
HSBC says the UK job cuts are part of a plan begun in 2000 when it started transferring some of its back office and customer support work abroad.
The bank had already announced 1,400 UK job cuts this year, blaming tough economic conditions.
HSBC's decision reflects a growing trend among UK firms to move customer support and call centre jobs to Asia to cut costs.
British Telecom last month drew protests over its plans to switch its directory enquiries service in India, as did insurer Prudential last year.
Just days ago there were reports that rail companies were considering transferring their national enquiry service to India.
HSBC employs about 55,000 people in Britain.
It has said that by the end of 2006 it expects about 87% [48,000] of its staff to be
based in the UK and about 13% [7,000] to be in service centres in Asia.