The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jobs for India, jolt to Britain

London, Dec. 2: Amid a raging controversy in the West over outsourcing, Norwich Union, a household name in Britain, said it would be “creating” 2,350 jobs in India next year.

Norwich Union, the country’s biggest insurance group, is listed on the stock market as Aviva. The £200-billion company said that about 350 of the new jobs in India will be at call centre roles, while another 2,000 would involve “back office” administration, processing and information technology. Aviva already employs 1,200 workers in Delhi, Bangalore and Pune.

It also has a venture in India with Dabur, called Aviva Life Insurance Company.

Although Aviva said it was “creating” 2,500 new jobs — 150 of these to support its general insurance business in Canada — no one was fooled. Amicus, the union involved, said the announcement was “deplorable” and had given thousands of workers an uncertain future as their Christmas present.

It predicted that it would mean at least 500 compulsory job losses, with no guarantees that there would not be further cuts. Workers across the country were being given the bad news at briefings today, as union leaders said they feared cuts at several locations, including Norwich, York and Perth.

Amicus called on the company to reverse the “despicable” decision and said the union would back workers in “whatever course of action” they choose.

Richard Harvey, group chief of Aviva plc, spelt out the harsh realities in a statement which can be summed up as “outsource to India or die”. Once it was argued that Indians could do the job cheaper. Now, it is becoming apparent that educated Indians do the job better.

Harvey said: “We are operating in an increasingly competitive environment. Our customers want value-for-money products, high levels of service, so it is vital that we continually explore opportunities to improve our efficiency while maintaining service levels. Our staff in India are an important part of this process and our experiences to date have been positive.”

He added: “Making decisions that will affect our staff is always tough, but by taking action to remain competitive we will secure a long-term future.”

It hopes that 80 per cent of the jobs lost to India will be soaked up through expansion, current vacancies, staff turnover and voluntary measures.

The company is also setting aside £1.5 million for retraining.

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