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1,000 O2 staff chose redundancy over Capita

Betrayal, or just decent terms?

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Another 400 O2 staff will be redundant by December, something the union calls "a betrayal". The operator, meanwhile, claims it is proof of just how generous the voluntary offer was.

Both sides agree that 1,000 O2 staff will be made redundant as the remaining call centres are outsourced to Capita, and that this is more than the 600 mentioned in the original deal, but just as the Communication Workers Union is balloting on strike action, it has emerged that another 400 staff have found O2's offer of voluntary redundancy too good to miss.

"The terms of [voluntary redundancy] have proved an attractive option for a number of people expressing a wish to leave and has allowed them the opportunity to choose the path which suited their personal circumstances," says the statement from O2, which argues outsourcing is necessary given how few people call the helpline these days.

Calls have dropped by a million a month in the last two years, and O2 reckons 35 per cent of its call-centre chairs are empty as a result. Capita has agreed to guarantee employment of transferred staff for two years, while O2 offered voluntary redundancy to 600.

But the operator underestimated the fear of Capita, and the offer was oversubscribed so has now been extended to another 400 people who'll walk on 1 December.

That's less surprising when one considers the union's claim that Capita only pays an average of seven quid an hour, while those working for O2 get a tenner for the same time, and that the move us purely a money-saving exercise for Telefonica (Spanish owners of the O2 brand). The operator denies this claim, saying staffers would be guaranteed two years' employment at their existing salary on Capita's payroll.

The additional numbers will certainly impact the strike ballot the union mailed out last week, which has to be returned by Tuesday (18 June). That ballot calls for industrial action to ensure employment protection beyond two years and make those jobs location-specific too.

One imagines the additional 400 who've taken the cash won't want industrial action muddying the process, or perhaps they'd be happy to stay on if promised the jobs won't disappear overseas once the two-year promise expires. We won't know until the ballot completes and we certainly won't be the only ones awaiting the results with interest. ®

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