HSBC denied claims on Friday that it had exerted pressure on a contractor to remove an employee who had called for the formation of a banking and finance industry trade union in Hong Kong.
The bank issued a clarification to the media and an internal memo to staff hours before dozens of protesters gathered across from its Hong Kong headquarters in Chater Garden, Central to support Nathan Leung Lai-pong, 38, who said he was asked to transfer from HSBC where he had worked as a guest service officer since May 2018.
Leung, who is employed by HSBC contractor Compass Group, said he was asked to move from the bank on September 5 after he joined a general strike associated with the ongoing anti-government protests and had called for the setting up of a banking union two days earlier.
He said the transfer request was tantamount to “dismissal”.
“HSBC pressured the outsourcing company to fire me, but they avoided using the word ‘fire’. They used the word ‘transfer’ to give me a post in another company. In reality, that was attacking my right to form an HSBC union,” he said.
“They claimed I exposed the confidentiality of the bank and offered me an alternative post to keep me quiet, but that is not a deal I want to take.”
But a spokeswoman for the bank rejected his claims. “Leung is not and never has been an employee of HSBC,” she said.
An internal memo sent to HSBC staff on Friday and seen by the Post said Leung’s allegations about his dismissal from the bank were misleading.
“Leung is currently employed by Compass Group, which provides facilities management services in its clients’ offices and is not owned by HSBC,” it read.
“HSBC is not involved in the decision about where employees of Compass are asked to work.”
The company said it would continue to monitor developments and reserved all its rights if Leung persisted in making misleading statements about the bank. A source at HSBC said the bank did not pressure Compass Group Hong Kong to dismiss him.
In a memo released on Friday afternoon, Compass confirmed it provided services to HSBC and said Leung was still employed at the company.
“As a usual practice, it is at the company’s discretion to deploy employees to work on the premises of different clients from time to time. This forms part of our contractual terms with employees and there are no attached conditions to any such deployments,” the statement said.
Former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, who attended the rally, said suppressing the joining of strikes and forming of trade unions violated provisions in the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
“I urge workers in Hong Kong and workers around the world to support the struggle of their brothers and sisters in Hong Kong to exercise their labour rights,” he said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Ex-World Bank chief Robert Zoellick says Hong Kong leaders have lost touch, warns of ‘dangerous situation’
- Chinese internet users call for boycott of BNP Paribas over worker’s support for Hong Kong protest
- HSBC chairman Mark Tucker condemns violent protests in Hong Kong
- Second Hong Kong customs officer arrested over protest-related offence, bringing tally of disciplinary services staff detained amid unrest to four