Unions call for Indian call-centre boycott

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The Independent Online

Trade unions are stepping up their campaign against overseas outsourcing with a commission to investigate the costs to the UK economy and a consumer boycott of companies that have moved jobs to India.

Amicus, which represents most British call centre workers, is co-ordinating the moves.

It is working with the National Union of Students on an email and publicity campaign questioning the ethics of outsourcing to India. Students will be encouraged to boycott companies such as HSBC, British Airways and Norwich Union.

"We want to ask what conditions people are working in in India," said David Fleming, the national secretary for finance at Amicus. "People have to work at night, often being bussed many kilometres from their communities, and this causes high stress levels. One call centre is known as the '15 pounder' because that's how much weight you lose in the first week working there."

The India High Commission has rejected these criticisms and has invited representatives from Amicus and other unions to see conditions for themselves.

Amicus is also one of five unions backing a commission to investigate the effect of offshoring on British employment. The unions are to invite a British business leader to chair the commission.

Patricia Hewitt, the Trade Secretary, has said she will launch an investigation into the effect of offshoring on the UK call centre industry. However, the unions want to widen the probe to include other sectors.