Call centre shake-up angers unions
Telecoms giant BT has given the go-ahead to its plans to outsource directory enquiries to India.
Two new call centres are to open in Bangalore and New Delhi, employing 2,200 people by 2004. The telco is the latest company to go down the outsourcing path in order to cut labour costs, as businesses increasingly send everything from software development to entire business processes overseas.
In a statement, BT said its Next Generation Contact Centre (NGCC) reorganisation will reduce the number of its call centres in the UK from 104 to 31, with call centre workers cut from 16,000 to 14,000. BT said no permanent employees will lose their jobs as a result of the outsourcing move and that there will be no compulsory layoffs for agency staff.
The move comes around the first anniversary of BT Retail launching a two-year project to transform its 104 call centre sites into a network of larger multi-functional contact centres, able to deal with customers' enquiries through a variety of media.
The Communications Workers Union said it will step up preparation for a day of demonstration on 20 March. "It will be a day of protest at directory enquiry centres," a CWU spokesperson told silicon's sister site, ZDNet UK. "There are currently 27 directory enquiry centres and ten that do operator work. We will be protesting outside each one of those. We will be asking our own members and the people that work in those buildings to come out during a set time in the day, along with members of the public to protest."
The CWU is getting support from trade union group Amicus and banking union Unify and intend to run a united campaign to lobby government.
Chief executive of BT Retail, Pierre Danon, said in a round table briefing with journalists that he realised the shake-up was an emotional subject, and said that there was some nervousness over a move that could affect some of BT's 6,000 agency workers.
In a statement, the CWU said it is seeking to have the issue raised in the house of Commons, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly. Chris Smith, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, has tabled an early day motion concerning outsourcing.
Andrew Swinton writes for ZDNet UK