BA and Lloyds TSB to wield axe at call centres

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Call centre jobs in Britain's biggest blue-chip companies were under threat again yesterday as British Airways and Lloyds TSB both announced staff cuts.

BA is closing its call centres in Glasgow and London, blaming the rise in internet ticket sales and putting 400 jobs at risk.

Lloyds TSB, which said in November that it would shift 1,500 jobs to India by the end of 2004, yesterday announced a further step towards that target, with the loss of 107 jobs in Bournemouth and Newport, south Wales, from its general insurance business.

The move provoked outrage from unions, which are still reeling from the closure of its call centre in Newcastle and the loss of 750 jobs to India. Unifi is expecting as many 9,000 jobs to disappear from Lloyds in the next few years.

The bank has guaranteed that there will be no redundancies in 2004, but this has done little to appease staff.

"This does not bode well for jobs in 2005 and beyond. Outsourcing damages the reputation of UK companies and service quality to customers," Unifi's national officer Bernadette Fisher said. "Closing the Newcastle call centre has taken away any trust staff might have had in the LTSB offshoring project. It's time for the bank to start to rebuild that trust."

BA said closing its Glasgow and London call centres would save it more than £10m over the next five years. The airline, which has been fending off competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet, has slashed more than 12,600 jobs in the past two years.

The Transport & General Workers Union yesterday called the closure a "superficial appeal to appease the cost cutters". A spokeswoman said: "There are alternatives. They should be explored."

The rise in internet ticket sales has made the call centres no longer cost efficient, according to BA, which said calls to its five centres in Britain had fallen by 34 per cent in the past two years to 8.5 million a year. The company said it was aiming to create 400 new positions at its remaining call centres in Belfast, Manchester and Newcastle.

There was better news yesterday for 1,450 call centre staff who work for the car insurer Admiral. They received a £2.5m payout from the company as part of a staff profit-sharing scheme.