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East Coast staff told to move continents for jobs

Posted on Mar 01 2011
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 Almost 200 workers at a threatened call centre handling telephone and web-based ticket sales for Government-owned rail firm East Coast have been told they can “follow” their jobs, according to the TSSA union.

 
The claim comes after firm East Coast decided against renewing its contract with UK-based transport company National Express, which runs the Baron House call centre in Newcastle.
 
East Coast has agreed a deal with two specialist firms – Intelenet and Atos Origin – with bases in Mumbai, India, as well as Plymouth and Wolverhampton. It is expected around a third of the work will be done abroad.
 
TSSA regional organiser Chris Hargrave said staff at the customer service centre had been told they could follow their jobs and that could mean some having to move to India.
 
He added it was to do with regulations allowing existing staff to transfer to another company when it won a contract for work already been done, as this in the case.
 
“They are giving them an impossible option,” said Mr Hargrave. “Even if the work was staying in the UK, it is not viable for workers to follow that work because of the salaries they are on and many are part-time workers. Financially, they are not in a position to move out of the North East.”
 
Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “It is staggering that it has been suggested that the workforce can somehow save their jobs by relocating from Tyneside to Mumbai.
 
“They deserve much more consideration and respect than this crass proposal.
 
“It’s bad enough being told North East workers should travel to Wolverhampton or Plymouth for work, but to expect people to move to a different continent to keep their job is beyond belief.”
 
He added: “This is a publicly-funded contract and for the Government to allow these jobs to go in the first place is appalling and a real false economy.
 
“Two hundred workers will lose their livelihoods while the taxpayer and region will miss out from much-needed taxes and local spending power.
 
“Ministers could have and should have ensured that as much work was kept in the region as possible. They need to think again.”
 
An East Coast spokesman said just nine of its staff worked at the call centre and are expected to be re-deployed within the company. The firm has also insisted the deal will provide taxpayers with the best value for money.
 
National Express has already expressed disappointment and promised a full consultation with staff.
 
A spokesman for the company yesterday added: “We have not yet commenced the process of formal consultation with our employees based at our Newcastle contact centre and their representatives. We also await more details from the successor operators as to what opportunities they will be offering for any redeployment – bearing in mind what will be reasonable for individual employees.”
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