Unions slam jobs 'stampede' to India


Just days after new research suggested that UK call centres deliver better customer satisfaction than their offshore counterparts, the Abbey National bank and Axa Insurance have both announced plans to transfer customer service and back office staff to India

Abbey National said it would be closing two customer service offices and transferring 400 jobs to a call centre in Bangalore. Axa said that up to 230 staff would loose their jobs as a result of plans to move posts to India, with a further 470 jobs being lost as a result of other ‘operational efficiency’ measures.

The move means that Abbey customers making telephone enquiries about their bank accounts will soon be put through to Bangalore.

"There is a stampede of jobs leaving the UK like this and the UK government seems unable to stop it," said Linda Rolph, general secretary of the Abbey National Group Union. And she admitted that her members were helpless to prevent the transfer of jobs to lower-cost economies.

But Abbey’s chief executive Luqman Arnold defended the decision. "We have taken some tough decisions today absolutely necessary to the health of Abbey's future and for giving our customers a better service at a competitive price," he said.

However research announced earlier this week found that workers in British call centres answered 25 per cent more calls per hour than employees in India and resolved 17 per cent more of these calls first time.

An Abbey spokesman added that the bank would be looking at "other processes and operations" which might be suitable for outsourcing.

Axa, which already has two back-office centres in Bangalore, is also undertaking a feasibility study into moving other business processes to India. According to an Axa spokesman, "the precise implications of any offshoring strategy will be announced once these investigations have been concluded later in the year, but are likely to account for up to 230 jobs."

"We very much regret having to reduce the number of people who work with us. However, through natural attrition and re-deployment it is hoped that the need for any redundancies will be minimal," said Peter Hubbard, chief executive of AXA Insurance.