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Call Centre Workers Fight Job Cuts
BRITISH TELECOMM (BT) has been involved for over a year now in reducing the number of call centres in the UK. This has been managed through reskilling and relocating people.
Judy Griffiths, national assistant secretary (clerical) Communication Workers Union (CWU), personal capacity
Despite BT's commitment to no compulsory redundancies, it is quite clear that for many involved in the closure programme the offer of work in an alternative location is often not a real option, particularly for part-time and job-share people.
As if closing hundreds of centres and reducing to just 30 sites in the UK wasn't bad enough, the announcement that BT intend to open two call centres in India was a real blow to those employed by BT who desperately wish to remain in their current jobs.
Much of the work that BT wants to move to Bangalore is presently carried out by agency workers in the UK. These mainly young workers rely on these assignments for a regular wage, albeit lower pay, than they would earn if employed directly by BT.
Rock bottom pay of approximately £3,000 per year in India is obviously far too attractive to BT's bosses, whose only interest is to save on the wages bill and further enhance their hugely inflated salaries and bonuses.
The CWU has had enough and a political/industrial campaign is being launched, which will ultimately entail industrial action.
Many young workers are crying out for proper permanent jobs and it is a crime that BT can throw workers on the scrap heap because there is a lucrative labour market elsewhere.
While companies are run for profit, bosses will always look around the world for cheap labour to cut costs.
Public ownership of the telecommunications industry is ultimately the alternative to the madness of the market.
People before profit.
Mansfield CWU protest
Karen Kosianowska, Section Secretary of CWU Leicestershire Branch, spoke to the socialist on 20 March, outside Mansfield Automatic Telephone Exchange.
700 jobs are going nationally by April and 2,200 by April 2004, as new call centres open in Bangalore.
"Mansfield is ear-marked to close in April and the jobs will be transferred to Nottingham. BT say there will be no job losses but the 50 agency workers can't afford to go to Nottingham.
"Our argument is not with where the work is going [India] but that it should be staying in the UK. BT is paying a damn-sight less than what it's paying here.
"It's still women's work in India and now China is starting to give India competition for call centre work.
"This is new colonialism. Call centre workers there have to work in their night, learn English accents and are given English names."
In The Socialist 12 April 2003: