UNIONS yesterday branded HSBC the world's stingiest bank, as thousands of workers were balloted on strike action over pay.

Staff will vote on whether to hold a one-day strike on May 27 - the day of the company's annual meeting.

Amicus said the action would be in protest at a derisory pay offer and fears bonuses will be cut.

HSBC posted record profits of £9.6bn this year, with its UK arm generating £2.09bn towards this figure.

Amicus claimed up to ten per cent of UK workers will get no pay rise and a further 45 per cent will receive an increase below the rate of inflation.

HSBC has 186 staff in North Yorkshire, 151 in the Tees Valley and 198 in Tyne & Wear, plus a further 13 in its northern regional office.

It said Amicus represents 40 per cent of its clerical workers in the region.

The bank also announced it had set aside a record £164m for pay and bonus awards for employees, adding that two-thirds of its clerical staff were already paid above the market average.

It said only one per cent of its clerical staff, most of whom had unsatisfactory performance ratings, received no pay rise or bonus. Seven out of ten clerical staff received a bonus of at least ten per cent of their annual salary.