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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 12:28 GMT
BT opens Indian call centres
BT call centre employee
Call centre work is highly mobile
Telecoms giant BT has joined the growing band of Western firms to transfer call centre operations to India, at a cost of 2,000 UK jobs.

The firm has said it is to open two Indian call centres - in Bangalore and Delhi - employing 2,200 people by 2004.

The shake-up is part of plans which will see BT's UK-based centres drop from about 100 to 31, with the number of workers falling from 16,000 to 14,000.

BT said no permanent UK employees would be made redundant as a result of the move, and there would be no compulsory lay-offs among agency staff.

Union wrath

But the move has angered UK unions, which have threatened strike action over the switch.

In other countries, established providers such as BT have lost up to 40% of market share. We will not allow that to happen to us.
Pierre Danon, BT Retail
BT was spearheading moves to "destroy" UK jobs, said the Communication Workers' Union, which dismissed as a "red herring" the firm's jobs protection pledge.

"The point is that this is UK work, carried out for UK customers, offering a UK service," said Jeannie Drake, the CWU deputy general secretary.

"Doesn't that sound like work we should be doing in this country?"

According to one report, a series of demonstrations is planned at calls centres nationwide on Friday.

Investment plans

Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail, said he realised the shake-up was an "emotional" subject, and said that there was some "nervousness" over a move which could affect some of BT's 6,000 agency workers.

Good telecommunications links make it possible to outsource a lot of call centre jobs out of your country to other countries
Madan Mohan Rao

But he added that the shake-up would see millions of pounds invested in UK call centres.

"It is a tribute to BT that we are maintaining the investment and maintaining employment in the UK," he said.

"In other countries, such as Ireland and Germany, established providers such as BT have lost up to 40% of market share.

"We will not allow that to happen to us."

Elocution lessons

BT is the latest in a series of firms, including insurers Aviva and Prudential, to investigate locating call centres in India, where costs can be 30% lower than in the UK.

The Indian call centre industry employs more than 100,000 workers, who, if serving a foreign market, are often trained in the culture and customs of the country they service.

Workers serving UK customers are often given accent training, and taught about pubs, football and running story lines in popular soap operas, to be able to hold conversations with British customers.

BT's Indian call centres will deal with tasks such as ringing UK customers to remind them to pay their bills.

BT shares stood 2.75p lower at 154p by lunchtime in London on Friday.

BT threatened with strike action
18 Feb 03 |  Business
India's call centre boom
27 Nov 02 |  South Asia

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