Marks & Spencer to shift to India

Friday, 23 April 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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LONDON: Some 850 people will lose their jobs at services firm Experian - the latest victims of the trend for companies such as Marks & Spencer to shift their call centres to India.

The credit checking and data collection firm is shutting its division that provides call centre services for third parties. It blamed the loss of some of its biggest contracts to offshore companies.

The firm would not identify its clients although it said its exit from the business was because a number of contracts would "run their course" over the next two years.

One of the lost clients is Marks & Spencer, which is ending its contract a year early, in June. It had a smaller than expected volume of calls for its new credit card and will absorb the work at its call centres in Chester and India.

Other Experian contracts are with large financial services companies, the sector that has been the most eager to outsource services to India.

The area hardest hit by the Experian move is Preston, Lancashire, where 600 people are employed. Bolton and Widnes, in Cheshire, are affected too.

Trade union Usdaw national officer Val Pugh said Experian's move was "very, very confrontational" because the unions had not been consulted.

"GUS (of which Marks & Spencer is a part) is a very wealthy company. How much profit do they have to make? I hope they have a very good reason to put people who have been at GUS for 20 to 30 years out of a job."

Marks & Spencer has separately said that it plans to cut 1,000 jobs at its head office, some of which are likely to be transferred to India.

Bolton South East MP Brian Iddon said he was "disappointed" by the job cuts.

The group said it was talking to clients to guarantee that contracts would be fulfilled and consultations were also taking place with staff whose jobs were due to be lost.

Experian spokesman Peter Brooker said: "The quality of the work is good but it is becoming an increasingly competitive market worldwide and we have become unable to compete.

"We would have to invest a huge amount of money and that has been deemed prohibitive."

Brooker said all the job losses had been announced at once to allow workers to find new jobs.

"We will not be pursuing any new contracts or the renewal of any existing contracts. Some contracts will go before 2006 and we will downsize accordingly.

"We're telling people now, but they will be gradually going up to March 2006. One of the reasons we have told people now is to allow them to make alternative arrangements for new jobs.

"We will be contacting employment agencies and consultants and giving advice to workers."

Source: IANS
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