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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
HSBC and union clash over walkout
HSBC protester
Protesters targeted HSBC's annual general meeting
HSBC and the union Amicus have clashed over the impact of a 24-hour walkout by the bank's staff in a dispute over pay.

Amicus said Friday's action had closed branches across the UK.

But, HSBC denied the claim, saying just 1,471 staff had gone on strike. However it did add that the action by thousands of staff was "deeply regrettable".

Meanwhile, HSBC also said pre-tax profits for the three months to February were up 37% against the same period last year at $17.6bn (9.64bn).

At its annual general meeting (AGM) in London, it said acquisitions and lower-than-expected bad debts had boosted profits.

Wage row

However, the AGM also attracted protests from unions striking over what they have called a "derisory" pay offer in the wake of such large profits.

Amicus members handed out bags of nuts outside the meeting saying that HSBC staff are paid peanuts.

According to Amicus, 55% of British HSBC workers covered by its pay negotiations got no salary rise or a pay increase below the rate of inflation this year.

We've seen a growth in support throughout the week for this strike
Rob O'Neill, Amicus

HSBC says it has awarded a record pay and bonus pay-out adding that almost 60% of staff have received above-inflation increases.

On Friday, HSBC added that its new offer could lead to higher rises for staff, cash payments every December for three years and implementation of next year's pay rise a month earlier than planned.

"Only 1% of our staff received no pay rise and no bonus and most of them because of unsatisfactory performance," chairman Sir John Bond told the AGM.

However, Sir John came under fire for his own pay package which rose to 3.6m last year from 2.3m a year earlier.

One shareholder said Sir John was "now winning the lottery at the weekend as well as during the week".

Fallout

The escalating pay row between the bank and union has led to the strike action, which Amicus said had resulted in several branch closures, including banks in Liverpool, Preston, Grantham and Treorchy in south Wales.

HSBC branch
HSBC says profits jumped 37% in the three months to February

The union said a payment processing centre in Birmingham, which employs 1,700 people, had been forced to close as so few staff turned up for work, while other centres in Bristol and Hemel Hempstead had also been hit.

Amicus spokeswoman Catherine Bithell also told BBC News that some engineers had refused to cross picket lines to service ATM machines, leading to cash shortages in the machines.

However, HSBC disputed the union's claims, saying not one of its 1,500 branches or processing centres had closed, while cash machines, telephone and internet banking services were unaffected.

"I thank the 96% of our colleagues who are hard at work today to ensure that all our branches remain open," Sir John Bond said.

'Widespread support'

Amicus said that HSBC had bussed in managers to keep branches open and these were incapable of handling most customer requests.

Earlier, Amicus said it believed HSBC had misjudged the mood of its workforce.

"The bank has underestimated support for this strike right from the very beginning," Amicus national officer Rob O'Neill told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We've seen a growth in support throughout the week for this strike and we're confident it will have a significant effect up and down the country."

The 24-hour walkout is the first against a leading bank for more than eight years.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The union Amicus outlines its reason for the action




SEE ALSO:
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