SCMP Thursday, March 15, 2001

Mainlanders eager for HSBC jobs


Guangzhou bank workers yesterday welcomed the news that hundreds of HSBC jobs were being relocated across the border, saying they would do the work for as little as $1,500 a month.
That figure compares to the $6,000 salary for a back-office worker in Hong Kong. And while the announcement of the transfers of the logistics jobs to the mainland has plunged Hong Kong's banking sector into uncertainty, Guangzhou people see the move as a boost to the city's economy.
Some also warned their SAR counterparts to brace themselves for more intense competition from the mainland.
"It follows as a matter of course that the transfer means more job opportunities in Guangzhou, which means a rosier picture for the economy as a whole," said one data entry clerk at the bank's processing centre in Guangzhou yesterday.
When asked how much she earned a month and given a suggested figure of 3,000 yuan (HK$2,820), she reacted with surprise: "Three thousand? I have no idea about the pay of high-ranking staff."
The woman, identified only as Ms Lok, said the average salary was 1,500 yuan and people were still able to save 300 yuan a month.
Another employee, Ms Wong, 23, said everything was cheaper in Guangzhou. "We have a much lower cost of living here. We pay 800 yuan for the monthly rental of an average flat. So it's all part of a trend for Hong Kong companies to move northwards."
In a city where a three-course meal at a five-star hotel costs only HK$140, Mr Ng, a 33-year-old credit officer for China Construction Bank said HSBC's plan posed a risk for the SAR's future.
"Mainlanders used to look up to Hong Kong for everything from the skyscrapers to its vibrant economy," he said. "But the sense of envy has eroded since the handover. Guangzhou is getting close to being on a par with it, so Hong Kong should sense the risk it faces in the future."
He said jobs in the banking industry were considered "above average if not prestigious" in the city.
Most employees - usually university-educated - enjoyed housing allowances and received higher wages than the average worker.
Back in Hong Kong, morale was low at HSBC offices, where logistics staff were hoping they would get an early decision on their fate.
The move to Guangzhou will begin next month with the transfer of card operations. A second wave of jobs, in the Network Services Centre, will be switched in September.
A worker on the hotline section of the bank's card centre said he understood that the company would wait to see how the relocation was going before discussing the matter with the employees around July.
"Some people in the office are quite worried, especially those who have negative-value assets . . . We accepted [HSBC's] decision, but what we want is a notification on where we are to go to as soon as possible."