IT staff jobs at BT may be at risk if the company pushes ahead with a plan to outsource its directory enquiry service to India, union leaders have warned.
Up to 700 jobs would be at risk if BT transferred support for its directory enquiry service from UK call centres to India. Although most of these will be call centre operators, unions believe IT support staff at the call centres could be affected by the move.
Union leaders said they were considering taking industrial action over the possible outsourcing deal and claimed that BT is considering outsourcing other areas of its IT and communications infrastructure to India.
"This is the first phase", said Sally Bridge, assistant secretary for the Communication Workers Union. "The directory enquiry [proposal] is in the forefront of transferring work to India.
"I can't guarantee that there would not be thousands of jobs affected [in the future] in parts of the telecom and information sector if this deal goes ahead."
A BT spokesman stressed that no decision had been taken over moving directory enquiry support to India and added that there would not be any compulsory redundancies even if a deal goes ahead. "BT does not rule anything in or out," he said.
BT's proposal will reignite the debate over offshore outsourcing. A growing number of UK companies are moving IT or business operations to India to cut costs, although most choose not to publicise the controversial deals.
Last year, Insurance companyPrudential was forced to water down plans to transfer its call centre operation to India in response to union concerns over the scale of job losses.