Union holding strike ballot over O2-Capita outsourcing deal

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The CWU says trust is at “rock bottom” after leaked documents revealed Capita may slash jobs by the end of 2015

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is holding a strike ballot for members working in O2 call centres in Bury, Glasgow, Leeds and Preston Brook after the operator announced it was outsourcing jobs to Capita.

O2 announced the change, which will affect 3,700 jobs, on May 21. The operator said that under the deal, jobs and salaries will be protected for two years and employees will not have to relocate.

Last week leaked documents detailing Capita’s plans for the jobs revealed it is considering closing O2 customer service facilities in Bury and Glasgow once the two year period ends and by the end of 2015.

One option Capita is exploring would see O2 call centre staff in the four locations cut from 3,700 to 1,370.

The CWU is now asking those affected whether they would like to strike. It will despatch ballot papers on June 7 and close the ballot and announce the results on June 18.

An online petition opposing outsourcing O2 jobs to Capita already has over 1,000 signatures, and demonstrations were held outside O2’s Preston Brook site near Warrington last week.

Donning masks of Telefonica UK boss Ronan Dunne and brandishing banners declaring ‘Done by Dunne’ and ‘NO2 closures’, members and union activists handed out leaflets as staff arrived at work.

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “This ballot is about protecting decent UK jobs. We’ve been forced to hold a ballot because of the unusually short consultation period [May 21 – July 1] and lack of progress on assurances over job security, terms and conditions, and the future of sites.

“Trust is at rock-bottom, made worse by media speculation around site closures and offshoring work. Our members don’t know who to trust and we feel like we’ve been lied to by O2 and Capita. We’ve been left no option by the company but to hold this ballot and they know this.”

O2 has defended its deal with Capita, saying it rejected the latter’s suggestions to close contact centres and mass offshoring because they wanted to protect jobs.

It said no jobs will be cut for the next two years. A spokesperson added: “Beyond that timescale, f there is any future business requirement to reduce roles for O2 this will not necessarily result in redundancies because Capita would actively manage the process, for example by not replacing those who move on, and potential redeployment to other roles within Capita.”

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