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Take that, gender pay gap! Atos to offshore hundreds of BBC roles

Beeb bigwig reckons £75m saved in IT could help pay parity. What?

Exclusive Hundreds of IT roles at the BBC are to be offshored to cheaper wage locations, under a £560m contract renewal coming into force with its incumbent outsourcing giant Atos.

In a conference call with 300 staff - heard by The Register - Atos bosses said the new Aurora IT contract model will involve a "significant amount of offshoring and new tooling".

The workers were warned they will be pushed into an "availability pool", where some may be redeployed to another role within the company.

But only a fraction are expected to be retained on the BBC account, with most of those local roles to be exported to Atos centres in Poland and India, sources told us.

The vast majority of the Infrastructure and Data Management team and the professional services team (B&PS) will be relocated, staff were warned, but the media practice team and service desk will continue to operate from their current locations.

In total, around 400 Atos staff have worked on Auntie's tech support agreement, and may have done so for the past decade when the agreement was first reached. The renewal was agreed in May.

Last week James Purnell, BBC director of Radio and Education, told presenter Kirsty Walk on Newsnight (at 5:15 on this video) the £75m expected to be saved from the IT programme with Atos could help address the gender pay gap exposed after the Beeb revealed the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000.

On the briefing call, staff were told that a large mix of offshore versus onshore was necessary in order for Atos to win the bid against Fujitsu and CSC.

Employees were also told the new IT model is supposed to begin in October this year, however, those plans are "subject to change" with an overhaul done "in a more staged manner" rather than a "big bang" approach.

"The original plan was to deliver significant milestones and key deliverables in October. That is still the plan of record, but we are re-baselining some of those activities," staff were told.

One staffer told The Register that although the company was not making employees redundant, there was some uncertainty as to what would happen if they remain in the "availability pool" for too long.

The new Aurora IT programme, supposedly a "tower contract", will replace the original £2.3bn deal the BBC signed with Siemens back in 2004, which was transferred to Atos when it acquired Siemens' Solutions and Services unit in 2010.

Aurora was scheduled to begin in 2015, but the existing contract with Atos had been extended for another two years at a cost of £285m.

In addition to Atos, the other main supplier to win a place on Aurora is BT, which will pocket £100m over the next seven years to supply its internal network.

El Reg asked the BBC and Atos about the changes.

A BBC spokesman said the structure of the outsourcing arrangement was up to Atos in terms of how it chooses to provide services under the shiny new model. He said:

"As planned, these services will be provided to us by Atos from October."

Atos didn't directly answer the points we raised. A mouthpiece said it was in the "very early stages" of the new contract with the license-fee-payer-funded broadcaster.

"We look forward to delivering the new service which will provide a fantastic end user experience taking advantage of new technologies, whilst also providing significant cost savings." ®

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