BT's repatriated customer service runs into UK worker objectionsby
BT wants to bring call centre jobs back to Britain but is concerned about the repercussions on working hours in the UK, as Stuart Lauchlan reports.
Customers may not be keen on offshore call centres, but it can be harder than it seems to bring them back to the UK, telecoms firm as BT has found out.
BT announced plans earlier this year to bring 2,000 call centre jobs back to the UK from India, saying that it had a responsibility during the recession to find permanent positions for UK staff. But the telco has run into problems trying to find UK workers who are willing to work the same hours as their Indian counterparts.
Staff unions are said to be concerned that employees could be forced to change their hours to meet the level of coverage provided on the sub-continent, which is 4.5 hours ahead of the UK. The rota changes could involve working on Saturdays and Sundays and until 11pm, which the unions says are unsociable hours that are unfair to employees, especially those with families.
In talks with the unions
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) – which has been critical of BT's offshoring in the past - said it was at an early stage in talking to BT about the hours that UK call centre operators could be required to work. "We are going to be talking to BT about making sure working hours are not forced upon people, but we haven't got to that stage yet,” said a spokesman. “We welcome the return of work from India. We are working with the company to establish how this is going to work in practice.”
BT insists that it is “essential that we are there when our customers wish to do business with us” and this has led to discussions with the unions. "BT has already brought back work from India with no issues surrounding working hours and we plan to bring more back over time. We have been in discussion with the Communication Workers Union in order to gain their support to begin a process of seeking as far as possible to reflect the hours currently undertaken by our partners outside the UK," commented a BT spokesman.
"We are working closely with the union who have been supportive of our plans. BT has a responsibility to find work for its permanent workforce and this is just one measure it is taking to protect its direct workforce.”
Unrelated to customer feedback
BT, which moved 5,500 call centre jobs to India in 2003, insists that shifting the call centre staff back to Britain has nothing to do with customer feedback about calls handled in India. BT is only the latest UK firm to repatriate offshore jobs, following the lead set by Powergen, Abbey and Orange.
While UK customers have been seemingly overwhelmingly against offshore calls centres, there's little prospect of them going away any time soon, according to research firm Datamonitor.