The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UK union calls on Indian workers

London, Jan. 11: A British banking union, Unifi, confirmed today that it has held talks with representatives of 50,000 call centre employees in India to recruit them into its membership.

Dai Davies, director of communications of Unifi, which has 158,000 members in the banking and finance centre in the UK, said that if Indians joined, they could expect to receive the same treatment and benefits as their counterparts in Britain.

The message was: “Join a British union, earn a lot more.”

But diplomats at the Indian high commission countered by pointing out that the true message was: “Join a British union and kill off the goose that lays the golden egg.”

Asked whether higher wages for Indians would make the transfer of British jobs to call centres in India less attractive, Davies told The Telegraph: “That’s so. Some consultants have been saying that the quality of work in India is not as good as the propaganda has made it out to be. There is also a high rate of attrition, that is people leaving, of about 30 per cent from call centres. They have the same problems of staff retention, of boredom. People leave because the call centre down the road may be paying a bit more.”

Davies said the talks in India had been going on for some time, and confirmed the accuracy of a report today in the financial pages of The Mail on Sunday, headlined: “Bank Union moves on Indian call centres”.

Indian diplomats dismissed Unifi’s move as a desperate ploy to stem the loss of jobs to India.

The Mail on Sunday said Unifi is working with Union Network International (UNI), a global trades union congress, to offer representation to more than 50,000 employees in the centres.

It was disclosed that UNI had already held a number of meetings in Bangalore and Hyderabad to publicise the service provided by the unions and the response, according to officials, had been “positive”.

It was pointed out that staff in India, although well paid in local terms, typically earned a tenth of the salary paid to their counterparts in the UK.

One union official said: “It is proven that when there is union representation the price of labour goes up.”

Davies acknowledged, however, that the union situation in India was “pretty well organised”.

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