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UK monolingualism spurs Amazon shift to Ireland

Another kick in the teeth for Slough

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Amazon has decided to relocate its customer service centre to Cork in a bid to take advantage of stronger language skills in Ireland. The workforce in perennial joke-butt Slough doesn't have the necessary polyglotism required to deal with calls from all over Europe, it says.

Headquarters will stay in Slough, but 90 call centre and support staff face relocation. Combined with expansion, the move will create up to 450 jobs on Cork's Airport industrial estate.

European customer services chief Jim Adkins offered the FT a banal explanation for getting the movers in: "As our business has grown, and as we have expanded the categories of products we offer, we need to expand our customer service support as well."

A dearth of French and German speakers is behind the shift to Cork. A 2005 European Commission poll revealed the UK lags behind its near neighbour in language skills, with just 30 per cent of the population able to converse in a second tongue, to the Irish's 41 per cent.

The news can only make things worse for Slough - long regarded as Britain's most depressing place to live and visit. The BBC recently took pity on the wretched setting for The Office by sending a team of "happiness experts" to cheer the place up in its series "Making Slough Happy". For the uninitiated, John Betjemen's poem "Slough" sums up the ambient despair rather eloquently. ®

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