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BT confirms India call centre move

Union and telco locked in dispute

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BT has confirmed it is setting up two call centres in India but insists no UK jobs will be lost as a direct result of the move.

The new centres will be set up in Bangalore and New Delhi and will handle part of the telco's directories and conferencing work. BT is also considering moving other parts of its operation to India.

It is expected that both sites in India will employ some 500 people by the end of this month - and around 2,200 by March next year.

In a bid to head-off concerns about job losses, BT Retail chief Pierre Danon insisted no BT or agency employees would lose their jobs as a direct result of this measure. Instead, the job losses would be achieved through "natural wastage among agency workers" in the UK, he said.

But the move has angered the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which accused Mr Danon of being "economical with the truth' over plans to open call centres in India.

Said the union's deputy general secretary, Jeannie Drake: "The point is that this is UK work carried out for UK customers offering a UK service. Doesn't that sound like work we should be doing in the UK?"

The union is considering industrial action, but in the meantime, is arranging a series of demonstrations in locations where it claims 700 directory enquiry jobs are under immediate threat.

In a statement the CWU said that it is "vital we stop the rot at an early stage" or "tens of thousands of jobs" could be lost in the UK.

But Mr Danon hit back saying: "There is no reason - no motive - for industrial action. We are not terminating one job."

BT said it took the decision to move its directories business to India as a result of deregulation in the industry. It is fearful that it might follow other countries, such as Ireland and Germany, where established providers have lost up to 40 per cent of market share.

"We will not allow that to happen to us," said Mr Danon. "By trimming our costs we can remain very competitive on price and also protect the long term jobs of BT Directory operators in the UK," he said. ®

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