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May 23, 2003

BT responds to union protests on move to set up 2 contact centers in India

UK telecom giant BT has been facing protests from its unions ever since it announced plans to open contact centers in India. The union had conducted demonstrations in front of the company's UK contact centers and threated to strike work. Click Here to read Business Line's report (dated Martch 21, 2003) on the union protests and comments from union leaders.

In a press release titled BT Retail Chief Criticices Union Stance Over India the company's CEO, Pierre Danon, hit back at the union protests.

Here are some intresting points regarding the Indian centers made in the press release:

 the contact centres in India will be at least of the same standard as those in the UK and they will be managed by BT Retail, using its own systems, processes and technology;

 they will be superb working environments and the people will be paid at the upper quartile within the information technology-enabled services market in India;

 BT Retail's partners, HCL E-serve Technologies and Progeon, are both highly respected employers, who meet all BT Retail's requirements in terms of ethical trading and working practices.

In BT's March 7 press release confirming the move to set up the Indian centers, Danon had laid out the logic for the move.

"There are many reason why BT Directories has chosen to take work out to India. As a result of deregulation, we now face intense competition in this sector. In other countries, such as Ireland and Germany, established providers like BT have lost up to 40 per cent of market share," he said. "We will not allow that to happen to us. By trimming our costs we can remain very competitive on price and also protect the long term jobs of BT Directory operators in the UK," Danon added.

The Indian centers will initially handle parts of BTs directories and conferencing work. BT Retail is also considering moving parts of its other operations to the Indian contact centers, but no final decisions have been made yet.

BT Retail has set three criteria to identify future projects that could be outsourced to India:
 previously outsourced work which can be brought back in-house (like business telemarketing)
 existing work which is uneconomic to carry out in the UK (such as non-automated reservations for BT Conferencing audio calls)
 new work which can only be commercially justified in India (such as reminder calls to people who have forgotten to pay their bill)