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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 13:50 GMT
Job transfer 'helps economy' - Hain
Peter Hain, Welsh secretary
Hain could face a backlash following his comments
Welsh secretary Peter Hain has said that companies which transfer call centre jobs to Asia are helping the British economy.

His comments are likely to anger hundreds of workers in Cardiff, whose jobs are under threat because their employer has lost the contract for National Rail Enquiries.

Speaking in Westminster, Peter Hain told MPs that call centre companies which outsourced part of their work to other countries were getting a big return - and that surplus enabled them to expand their operations at home and create more jobs.

He said this could be seen as a benefit to the British economy, even though it might be painful and difficult for some when the jobs were transferred overseas.

He told MPs that evidence supplied by the Call Centres Association suggested companies outsourcing were getting a "big return".

And, he added : "A surplus is coming back into this country, enabling them to expand services and create more jobs and contribute to the prosperity of the country.
We will make sure there's help for them to get new jobs
Patricia Hewitt

"Although it is painful and difficult when this kind of churning takes place...it is not just as straightforward as saying we've lost jobs to another country.

"The return that comes back is quite important as well."

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Friday, Mr Hain stood by his comments.

"What I said was, if the jobs are having to go because we simply cannot compete in a global economy with much, much lower wages, then at least there is a compensation - in that British companies are having an overseas investment," he said.

"That, in turn, allows investment here, creating greater prosperity and greater jobs."

Trade and industry Patricia Hewitt supported Mr Hain's comments when she visited Wales on Friday when she announced a new study into the call centre industry.

"If British companies grow by investing abroad, that is going to be good for our pension funds and for British workers, too," she said.

"But that is no comfort if you are losing your job right now, or if you are in a family that has been devastated because of job cuts in the past."

Train station platform sign
Serco had held the rail inquiries contract for seven years

She said that both her and Mr Hain realised how stressful it was for the workers.

"We will make sure there's help for them to get new jobs," she said.

On Wednesday it was revealed that more than 400 national rail inquiry call centre jobs in Cardiff were under threat after a contract was not be renewed.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), which awards the contracts, confirmed that the Cardiff-based Serco would lose the contract it has held for seven years on 31 March next year.

ATOC has not commented on whether the three remaining companies competing for the contract propose operating the inquiry service from call-centres in the UK or overseas.

Rail inquiries chief executive Chris Scoggins was severely criticised last month when he said the service could be improved if outsourced to India.

Amicus, the union representing call centre workers responded by saying: "This attitude is an example of the idiocy of moving the inquiry service 10,000 miles away."

Union officials said that the time that if the inquiry service is moved overseas it could threaten more than 1,000 jobs around the UK.

Job exports no myth, say unions
05 Dec 03  |  Business
Indian call centre move 'idiotic'
13 Nov 03  |  Business
UK firms size up Indian benefits
02 Dec 03  |  Business

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