Call centres 'should consult on UK jobs'

Call centres must consult their customers, workers and trade unions before deciding whether to move jobs overseas, according to an independent report endorsed by the Government yesterday.

Employment in call centres will exceed one million within three years, according to the report that the Government commissioned last year to calm fears over an exodus of jobs to the Far East.

The fast-growing sector will take on an additional 200,000 workers by 2007, taking the total workforce to four times that of India, the main rival for British call centres, it said.

The study, the first comprehensive report on the industry in the UK, found that the industry has grown by almost 250 per cent since 1995.

Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, ordered the study last December in response to mounting concern about job losses. Its remit was to study the issues affecting the UK call centre industry and its capability to respond to global pressures, particularly the issue of jobs being "off-shored" or moved to cheap labour countries such as India.

Unveiling the report, Ms Hewitt said it showed the UK had a vibrant call centre sector that was forecast to grow, but she added: "We do need to position ourselves according to our strengths.

"Others are unbeatable on cost, but we are unbeatable on quality. The best British call centres are the best in the world, offering high value businesses, high skill professionals: but we need to bring the quality of the rest up to that of the best."

The report's recommendations include requiring companies to consult before shifting jobs abroad. The Department of Trade and Industry said it backed the findings.

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