Union may call industrial action over HP outsourcing

A major union may call industrial action over HP's outsourcing of 200 government IT support jobs from UK sites to Bangalore in India.The affected workers, at sites in Newcastle, Lytham St Annes and Sheffield, provide IT support to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

A major union may call industrial action over HP's outsourcing of 200 government IT support jobs from UK sites to Bangalore in India.

The affected workers, at sites in Newcastle, Lytham St Annes and Sheffield, provide IT support to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). On Friday, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said it was considering the industrial action in response to HP's intended transfer of the positions overseas. However, HP insisted that the workers would most likely be redeployed into other roles.

"PCS is calling on the government to fully consider the wider economic arguments," the union said in a statement. "It is consulting its members about the proposals and has not ruled out industrial action."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said in the statement that "the government must not allow low-paid jobs to be offshored", adding that the offshoring "will be a disaster for UK workers and the tax payer and will only ensure that Hewlett Packard's shareholders reap the benefits."

However, HP spokesman Paul de Lara told ZDNet UK that the savings would almost certainly be passed onto the government. He said the company was following the government's general call for cost efficiencies in its contracts, and the outsourcing did not result from "a single conversation around a particular contract".

"It's a cost saving that we've agreed with the DWP, so they [the DWP] know the detail," de Lara said. "There are cost advantages from doing that, so that gives us the opportunity to pass those savings on to the direct customers. What the union's not saying is we are looking to redeploy those people affected into other parts of HP."

De Lara said the outsourcing process would go through into 2012, so the company was "very optimistic that we will be able to find those people other roles within HP working on different projects".

"In almost all cases where we find cost efficiencies in contracts we run, the benefits of that of course are seen by our customers," de Lara said.

A DWP spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Friday that "any plans by HP to move departmental work offshore would have to be agreed by our ministers". A PCS spokesman suggested this approval may come in August or September this year.

PCS members almost went on strike early last year over HP pay and job security issues, again to do with contractors to the DWP. However, that strike was averted after talks.