HP Workers Consider Strike Over Offshoring Plans

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HP workers at a number of UK sites are considering strike action over plans to offshore their jobs

A union representing nearly 2,000 workers at Hewlett-Packard has not ruled out industrial action over “advanced” plans to outsource jobs to India.

According to the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, up to 200 jobs at HP are thought to be at risk. Those HP staff provide IT support to the Department for Work and Pensions at sites based in Newcastle, Lytham St Annes in Lancashire and Sheffield.

The PCS said it represents 2,000 HP staff in the UK, however it does say the proposals to offshore the jobs have yet to be finalised and will require ministerial approval by the Cabinet Office.

Advanced Plans

The PCS states that the plans are at an advanced stage and the necessary ‘knowledge transfer’ work could start in August 2011, with jobs moving to Bangalore in November 2011.

According to the union, this move would represent a false economy because “the limited savings on IT would be overshadowed by the costs to the taxpayer through lost tax revenues and increased benefit payments to those thrown out of work.”

Strike Action

It urged the Coalition government to fully consider the wider economic arguments. And the union said it was consulting its members about the proposals “and has not ruled out industrial action.”

It also pointed out that HP makes a substantial percentage of its revenue from government services and rewards its executives with multimillion dollar packages.

“The government must not allow low-paid jobs to be offshored,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka. “It will be a disaster for UK workers and the tax payer and will only ensure that Hewlett Packard’s shareholders reap the benefits.”

HP Response

HP confirmed to eWEEK Europe that it is looking into the offshoring of jobs in an emailed statement.

“HP is transforming its global delivery strategy and has continued to improve the quality and cost-competitiveness of services to clients by expanding our global delivery footprint. We have begun consultation on the transfer of some roles to our operations in India, that will be effective in 2012.  We are working to redeploy staff affected into other roles within HP,” the company said.

“HP uses a combination of onshore and offshore deployment models to most effectively support its customers. This is always done with customers’ agreement and in compliance with their requirements to protect the security and integrity of any data,” it added.

However this is not the first time HP has faced possible strike action in the UK.

Industrial Unrest

In March 2010 HP staff, also belonging to PCS union, suspended their strike action over job cuts, thought to involve 1,000 PCS members working for HP Enterprise Services division.

That particular strike had been on the cards for a while, amid concerns the 3,400 staff that HP axed when it acquired outsourcing specialist Electronic Data Systems (EDS) back in 2008. The PCS union also claimed that another 1,000 redundancies had been planned by HP management.

The decision to move the jobs offshore comes amid a range of cost cutting measures by both the private and public sector. The Government for example continues to seek ways to reduce the record budget deficit.

Cost cutting measure such as jobs losses are often used, but are almost always opposed by unions. In February for example, Bob Crow, the leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Trade Union, proposed that the government should tax emails, rather than cutting public services.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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