The move, revealed by Computer Weekly in July, will see the Prague-based centre managing and supporting DHL's entire European IT infrastructure from May 2004, including networks, hardware, operating systems, applications and specialist IT staff.
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The centre is being built with substantial subsidies from the Czech government, and DHL expects to make substantial savings from the new site, which will also run IT for its Danzas and DPEE subsidiaries.
The jobs of up to 350 UK IT jobs - half the firm's IT staff - could be at risk following the decision. DHL has started a 30-day consultation period for the UK employees affected, a company spokeswoman said. Options on offer include relocation to Prague, redundancy or a different job within the UK.
DHL employees who have contacted Computer Weekly said “morale is at an all-time low in the UK data centre”.
“Ex-Danzas staff are getting the legal minimum redundancy payout and are very unhappy about it,” said one employee. “DHL staff are getting a little more. Only hints were made about retention bonuses, they would not say who would get them or how they would decide.”
DHL said, “Although DHL sits under one brand, the three companies are still separate legal entities and the contracts of the employees reflect that. That is where the disparity comes from.”
Stephen McGuckin, global chief information officer at DHL, said the company was forced to review its options because the UK centre is not large enough to accommodate the needs of DHL, Danzas and DPEE.
"The purpose-built, fully scalable facility will support the immediate needs of the combined business in the region, as well as enabling us to meet the growing scale and volume of business in the future," he said.
Around 500 jobs will be created at the new IT operations centre in the first year, with scope for further growth. These will be a mixture of UK staff willing to relocate and Czech workers, said DHL.
The criteria for selecting the location of the new centre included availability of a skilled and flexible labour force; a well-established and reliable telecommunications networks, good air links and the opportunity to reduce costs, McGuckin said.
Prague, these criteria and the Czech government offered strong support and incentives, he added. DHL's global IT group will retain a presence in the UK and Switzerland after the move.