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BT threatened with 75,000 strike action

Union angry about Indian outsourcing trial

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BT has been threatened with strike action over a trial outsourcing scheme it is running with a company in India. The ten-week trial will see Indian workers in Mumbai take on back-office data entry tasks. If deemed successful, BT says the move will only affect 25 workers in the UK, all of whom will be retrained for other jobs at the telco.

However, the Communication Workers Union, which represents 75,000 BT employees, sees the trial as the thin end of the wedge and claims it is a threat to British jobs. "Our concerns are for the future," a CWU spokesman told us. "If it goes on it could cause enormous problems."

The attraction of outsourcing is obvious and, allied with the low cost of labour in India, BT can expect to make large cost savings. If the practicalities of shifting large amounts of paperwork to the sub-continent are solved, further outsourcing would be a simple choice.

The CWU is demanding the trial be stopped and so had threatened a strike - although its spokesman admitted it is little more than a warning shot.

A BT spokesman told us the company does not envisage firing any staff and while the company cannot rule out future outsourcing projects, it would consult with the unions all the way. CWU is "over reacting", he told us.

"That's a little disingenuous," CWU told us. "If this is a trial, what is it a trial for? Why would it stop at just one project?"

Just this week, British Airways also came under fire for using cheap Indian labour to cut costs when it admitted at least 100 IT staff would not have their contracts renewed. ®

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