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UK financial firm stops shipping jobs to India


Saturday 7 February 2004, by SONWALKAR*Prasun

LONDON: The Plymouth-based Co-operative Financial Services has said it would not relocate jobs to India and create 500 jobs in Britain after resisting pressure to open a call centre abroad.

The group, which includes the Co-operative Bank and Co-operative Insurance Society, intends to recruit staff at its centres in Manchester, Skelmersdale and Stockport over the next 12 months. (Do you think that the BPO wave is gradually slowing down?)

The announcement comes a day after National Rail Enquiries said half of its calls are to be handled from India under a ?100 million contract.

Sheila Macdonald, chief operating officer at the Co-operative Bank, said the company intended to keep its operations on home ground.

"I believe passionately that when a customer contacts us, by whatever means, they should be dealing with one of our staff, trained and managed by us and with a dedicated focus on our customers’ needs and our products and services," she said.

"So whilst others are happy to use call centres in India and other overseas locations, we intend not to."

Co-operative Financial Services currently employs about 2,000 staff at seven centres across the North West - four in Manchester, two in Skelmersdale and one in Stockport.

Meanwhile, fresh concerns were raised that thousands of jobs in Leeds could soon be put at risk by the shifting of call centre jobs to India.

Leeds - where nearly 20,000 people are employed in the telephone services sector - is likely to feel the pinch.

According to business consultant Max McKeown: "If the city tries to ignore this threat, its call centres are going to be hit very hard indeed.

"We can’t moan or whinge about the competition from India - we must start focusing on what we can do better than our counterparts overseas. Using local knowledge to build relationships with customers would be a good place to start.

"What is certain is that people need to raise their game - or the jobs will go".

Glynis Winestein, a West Yorkshire-based national officer with the Communication Workers Union, is concerned that the call centre exodus could mean hard times ahead for many people in Leeds.

She said: "When our mills, mines and manufacturing went into decline, we were told service industries would be our salvation.

"Now that is starting to appear an empty promise - and it’s not just workers who will suffer, it’s the entire local economy. Fewer jobs means, fewer people spending money."

Over the last 15 years, high-quality telecommunications links and the easy availability of office space have helped turn Leeds into the nation’s call centre capital.

Meanwhile, customers at the Lloyds TSB branch in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, are being asked to sign a petition against the proposed transfer of jobs to India.

Some 1,500 call centres and other non-branch-based jobs are due to be created in Bangalore and Hyderabad by the end of this year. Lloyds TSB has already announced the closure of a centre in Newcastle, affecting 968 jobs.

More than 200 bank customers in Cinderford signed the protest petition two weeks ago.

The protest coincides with an announcement by Cheltenham and Gloucester, whose workers are also represented by the Lloyds TSB Group Union, that it is also setting up a similar pilot project in India.

This could threaten hundreds of jobs at the Cheltenham and Gloucester centre in Barnwood.


The Economic Times, Saturday, February the 7th, 2004.

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