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Strikes loom as BT mulls moving 700 jobs to India

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BT is facing the threat of industrial action over concerns that it could move 700 directory inquiries (DQ) jobs to India.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) claims BT is looking to export jobs in response to the recent deregulation of the DQ sector in the UK.

The lost jobs would be a massive blow representing around a quarter of BT's DQ workers in the UK, said the CWU.

In a letter to its members the union said that "UK jobs are for UK workers". And it pledged to use "all means at our disposal to oppose [the move] and if necessary for industrial action in support of retaining jobs in the UK".

In a statement BT confirmed that is "considering whether to establish contact centres in India" but insists that it has yet to make a "final decision" on the matter.

It added: "We would stress that, whatever decision is reached, we would not destroy BT jobs in the UK, only to recreate them in India. And, in line with our usual practice, anyone who wanted to stay with BT would be able to do so and be re-trained and re-skilled, if necessary."

The CWU isn't convinced. It reckons the proposed jobs shift isn't just about BT and BT jobs, but an issue for the wider UK economy.

The union's deputy general secretary, Jeannie Drake, said: "I worry whether the government is aware of the threat that remote sourcing poses to UK employment levels, especially in high unemployment levels."

And she reckons telecoms regulator, Oftel, also has to share responsibility for the "steady movement of jobs" out of the telecom sector in the UK to India and other countries.

"Oftel's recent decision on the deregulation of directory enquiries will lead directly to thousands of jobs being lost in the UK," she said.

"The regulator may be focused on meeting consumers needs through achieving the lowest price, but I wonder if regulators ever reflect on the employment consequences of the UK economy of their decisions.

"Certainly in respect of directory enquiries one has to unfortunately concede that this is not the case," she said. ®

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