Tech giant angers union with plan to slash 1,200 UK jobs

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Computer Sciences Corporation, which signed an employment agreement with unions last summer pledging to avoid making compulsory redundancies in the UK, plans to cut 1,200 British jobs. The move comes as the California computer services firm tries to slash costs before a possible sale of the company.

Amicus, the union which negotiated the employment deal with CSC, called the redundancies "the unacceptable face of rampant US corporatism". The job cuts are part of company-wide plan to lay off 5,000 workers - 4,300 this year and 700 in 2007.

A CSC spokesman would not confirm the number of UK lay-offs, pointing instead to the company's statement on the number of staff to be made redundant globally. CSC serves several public sector clients, including the NHS.

Peter Skyte, Amicus's national officer, said the British workforce was "being pillaged to plump up [CSC's] share price in advance of the sale of the company." CSC, which has its UK base in Aldershot, Hampshire, unveiled its restructuring plans on Tuesday in response to "recent expressions of interest" by unidentified bidders. CSC was reported to have held talks with Lockheed Martin, the US defence giant, and private equity firms, about a buyout, but those talks ended in November. The Blackstone Group and Hewlett-Packard have also been rumoured to be possible bidders. CSC has hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on its options.

The deal that CSC signed with the unions last August stipulated that money saved from sending jobs overseas would be used to retrain displaced UK workers. The agreement, which also said that the company would consult the union before making any decision regarding its globalisation strategy, was heralded by the union, the company, and by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson. Mr Johnson praised both parties for "showing the way ahead" and "[ensuring] that a share of any savings made [by offshoring] are reinvested in skills for the benefit of the workforce." CSC plans to carry out the lay-offs through voluntary redundancies, according to Mr Skyte.

CSC's income has nearly doubled in the past two years. It had $14.6bn (£8.4bn) in turnover last year but its growth still lagged behind the industry average. Its chief executive, Van Honeycutt, told investors last week that he expects the workforce reshuffle to cut $150m in costs this year and $300m the next.