Unions' action threat over job 'exports'

Union leaders have called for an end to the “export” of jobs to India at the expense of UK workers. The Communication Workers' Union today warned that up to 200,000 jobs in call centres across the country could be shipped abroad over the next five to 10 years.

Union leaders have called for an end to the “export” of jobs to India at the expense of UK workers.

The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) today warned that up to 200,000 jobs in call centres across the country could be shipped abroad over the next five to 10 years.

The CWU and colleagues in the insurance union Amicus have criticised plans by BT and Norwich Union's parent company Aviva to set up call centres in Delhi and Bangalore.

Union leaders claimed the imminent closure of BT's call centre in Lowestoft was proof of their concerns.


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But BT said the closure was part of a modernisation programme and all its staff had been offered jobs in a new centre in Norwich. The company also said the operations in India would be extra jobs – and not at the expense of BT's existing workforce.

Aviva's call centre in Delhi began operating last month with 100 staff. Another 900 will work at sites in Delhi and Bangalore by the end of the year.

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The Delhi call centre is handling customer services queries for Norwich Union Direct policyholders.

People calling NU Direct could now be speaking to a customer services adviser in Norwich, Sheffield or Delhi.

Aviva spokesman Hayley Stimpson said the new call centre would have minimal impact on staff in the UK including Norwich, where Norwich Union employs more than 8000 people.

“We would hope to be able to minimise any impact on job losses through natural turnover and wastage,” she said. “Nowhere is that more true than in Norwich itself.”

The majority of extra staff positions in India would come from unfilled vacancies in the UK, where NU recruits about 150 people a month.

The firm has shown its commitment to Norwich with the construction of a new call centre on the Broadland Business Park to house 750 people.

But the company has not ruled out redundancies altogether from its call centre operations.

Insurance union Amicus says it will fight any job losses – with a ballot for strike action being considered.

Today colleagues in the CWU backed the hard-line stance.

Mark Taggart, an executive member of the CWU told the union's annual conference in Bournemouth that the number of jobs being lost in the UK was reaching catastrophic levels.

He said: “It is simply about making more profits. Most companies are currently turning to India, but it could soon be Malaysia or China. We will continue to protest and if necessary take strike action.”

The CWU agreed to liase with colleagues at Amicus and banking union Unifi to mount a national campaign to fight job losses.

Unifi general secretary Ed Sweeney said: “The trend towards outsourcing overseas is very worrying.”

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