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HSBC employees demand compensation

(Global Times)

13:38, March 23, 2013

More than 100 Chinese workers at HSBC Holding Plc in Shanghai are still negotiating with their employer about a planned layoff in its insurance department, after some affected employees staged a protest in HSBC's Shanghai headquarters Wednesday.

About 80 salespeople for HSBC Life China, a joint venture between HSBC and National Trust, came out for a protest at the HSBC Tower in Shanghai Wednesday, blocking access to the building's elevators, after they were given oral notice by their CEO Lin Lixia that their personal life insurance team would be dismissed immediately, a negotiator for more than 100 affected HSBC workers told the Global Times Thursday, requesting anonymity because the negotiation is ongoing.

The protesters, who received written notices of termination without compensation Thursday, require compensation and an apology from the financial conglomerate, said the negotiator.

"We were so shocked that the company made the decision to lay us off within only 10 minutes. And we are not something you can just throw out," she told the Global Times.

No agreement had been reached between the two parties by 6 pm Thursday.

Several security guards were standing at the entrance to the elevators on Thursday to maintain order, but they refused to answer questions from the Global Times.

Shellie Zhang, a spokesperson for HSBC Life China, told the Global Times Thursday that the company is simply "redeploying" its employees.

"In line with the global insurance strategy, HSBC Life China will focus on its core bancassurance (bank insurance) capabilities, which will result in the closure of the direct sales force channel, which operates only in Shanghai," said a statement e-mailed by HSBC to the Global Times Thursday.

"Over 100 contract agents, authorized by HSBC Life to distribute the company's products, will be offered roles in Allianz, one of the life insurance providers of HSBC in China," said HSBC.

"Many of us obtained masters degrees overseas, and we joined HSBC because it was deemed a well-known and respectable company. We did not come to join Allianz," an HSBC insurance worker told the Global Times Thursday, speaking anonymously.

HSBC's personal insurance business in China has not developed as fast as management expected, leading to the elimination of the department, the worker claimed.

According to financial statistics provided by HSBC, its life insurance unit recorded 529 million yuan ($85 million) in gross written premiums in China in 2012, up 78 percent year-on-year. But 92 percent of total new business was contributed by the bank insurance business.

Financials for HSBC's personal insurance business are not available.

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC's CEO, who received a paycheck of 7.4 million pounds ($11.1 million) for last year, promised earlier this year that the UK-based banking group would find ways to save $1 billion in 2013.

The Financial Times said Monday that HSBC may cut 5,000 jobs this year.

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