Thousands of staff at HSBC are expected to stage a 24-hour walk out today in a dispute over pay.
Financial services union Amicus says it expects more than 10,000 Amicus members across HSBC branches, payment processing centres and the bank's IT services to take part in the strike, which began at midnight.
But according to a Reuters reports just 1000 are on strike - around two per cent of the 55,000 staff employed by HSBC in the UK. A HSBC spokesperson told reporters that operations were unaffected by the industrial action with all branches and call centres open as usual.
Amicus members voted to strike in rejection of a pay deal which would result in 10% of staff receiving no pay rise and a further 45% of staff with a below inflation increase. Amicus says HSBC's pay structure has seen many staff not receiving any pay increase for up to ten years.
But Sue Jex, HSBC's head of employee support, told reporters at The Times that the bank had awarded a record pay and bonus pay-out of £164 million to its staff, with only one per cent of not receiving a pay rise and bonus. Jex says almost 60% of employees had received increases above the rate of inflation and seven out of ten had been given a bonus of at least 10% of their salary.
The strike is taking place on the same day as the bank's annual general meeting. Amicus says dozens of demonstrators outside the AGM will be giving packets of peanuts to shareholders to illustrate the bank's pay deal.
Rob O'Neill, Amicus national secretary for HSBC staff, says the dispute is entirely of the bank's own making: "We and our staff regret any inconvenience that might be caused to HSBC customers but all the efforts we have made to resolve this dispute have fallen on deaf ears. HSBC simply refuse to listen to their staff."
The industrial action is the first against a major bank in the UK in more than eight years.