London, June 8: British trade union leaders have launched a campaign against India’s call centres and the country’s software industry which, they feel, are taking away far too many jobs from the UK.
A scare report in The Sunday Times has the “shock horror” headline: “Banks prepare to shift 200,000 jobs to India”.
The report includes a quote from Phil Middleton, head of retail banking at the audit and consultancy firm Ernst & Young, who knocks down The Sunday Times’s figures.
He said: “Figures like a couple of hundred thousand have been floated. That may be excessive, but we’re talking tens of thousands potentially being exported.”
Trade unions are now on the warpath and it is clear they will mobilise all the clout they have with Tony Blair’s Labour government to stem what they see as a veritable flood of jobs to India.
Jeannie Drake, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said: “We will not stand idly by and watch firms such as BT (British Telecom) play fast and loose with the long-term job security of our members. The government needs to wake up to the political and electoral consequences.”
Ed Sweeney, general secretary of the bank union Unifi, said: “There needs to be a wider debate facilitated by the government on this before the outflow of jobs becomes a flood.”
India’s success has inspired British Asian showbiz folk to turn India’s “call girls” into a new form of entertainment. The comedian, Sanjeev Bhasker, best known for the TV series Goodness Gracious Me and the sit-com, The Kumars at No 42, has said he is writing a film script.
But for trade union leaders, the reality is no fun.
The Sunday Times says: “Britain’s biggest banks and insurance companies are looking to move up to 200,000 administrative, processing and clerical jobs to India in the next five years. The move has alarmed the unions, which are now demanding urgent meetings with government to stop the exodus.”
The paper added: “Adecco, the recruitment firm, has predicted the transfer of 100,000 jobs in call centres alone from Britain to India by 2008 but many union officials believe the final figure could be twice as big.”
Management, however, is keen to transfer routine clerical jobs to India. “Barclays, Lloyds TSB and Prudential are all experimenting with overseas operations and have plans to move more staff abroad.”
One bank chief said he had met five of his peers in rival financial services groups last week and all wanted to outsource jobs to cheaper locations.
The paper says: “India’s information technology and services sector threatens to do to British white collar workers what the factories of China and Korea did to their blue collar workers.”