British call-centre staff 'inferior' to Asian workers

Bank chief says that HSBC Asian call-centre staff are quicker and more enthusiastic than British workers who are paid five times more

Call-centre staff in Britain can not match their counterparts in India, according to HSBC chief executive Sir Keith Whitson.

At a meeting to announce the banks interim results, Sir Keith extravagantly praised the bank's processing staff in Asia. "They're quicker at answering the phone, highly numerate and keen to come to work every day," he said. "Staff are hugely enthusiastic about their jobs, they dress well. A lot have degrees." He continued, "The quality of work overseas is exceptionally high."

HSBC has call-centres in Swindon, Hemel Hempstead and Leeds employing 5,000 people and has diverted work to Asian facilities in the past few years. Currently HSBC has 1,500 workers under contract concentrated at a call-centre in Hyderbad, who are paid one-fifth of the UK rate. By the year end the plan is to increase the number of call-centre staff in India and China to 4,500 workers.

Paul Mackenzie, Program Director of the Call Centre Association commented "In many instances the facts are true. However call-centres in the UK do offer excellent service, for example First Direct, part of HSBC has won awards. There are factors beyond price to consider. A lot of initial call-centre queries go offshore, with higher level issues being dealt with in the UK."

Up to three quarters of call centre staff may be experiencing stress, and four out of five suffering headaches, plus more than 60 percent having pains in their hands, wrists and back, reported a Trade Union survey by Unison.

For all job and work-related news, or to search for a job and get information on training, go to ZDNet Jobs. If you have something to say about work and employment issues say it here at the Jobs Forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.