More than 1,000 call centre workers have been issued with an ultimatum to accept a series of changes to their working conditions or face losing their jobs.
HCL BPO Technologies employees were sent a letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph, in which Anita Barnard, the general manager, announced that the firm would be making changes to the terms and conditions of the majority of the staff.
These include freezing or discontinuing the current salary scale, removing March 17 and July 12 as bank holidays, freezing or discontinuing annual leave increments, removing personal health insurance, removing BUPA health care, freezing future increases to pension contributors and reducing company sick pay.
All of those benefits are protected in current contracts but the company doesn’t recognise unions.
Around 1,200 people work at HCL BPO Services (NI) Ltd across sites in Belfast and Armagh, providing customer support and sales services for firms like BT, Abbey and Thames Water.
Ms Barnard said that two years of successive losses, with expected losses to come — and two major clients asking for a reduction in costs — had prompted the move.
The letter states: “Once the formal 90-day consultation period has taken place you will be provided with a proposed new contract of employment which includes your new proposed terms and conditions.
“You will then have a minimum of three months notice (dependent on the notice period of your current contract) before the new terms and conditions come into
affect if accepted by you. We hope that all members of staff will recognise that the proposals are necessary, consistent and competitive, but if you choose not to accept the new terms and conditions, your employment will terminate at the end of the notice period.”
A member of staff, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the changes are not being applied to senior management.
The employee added that a contract with BT in which HCL received no payment for any staff member who failed to meet their target, regardless of how close they were to their target, has added to the problem.
“I believe this short-term thinking will be to the detriment of HCL and its staff,” said the employee. Action such as this will cause those staff who have the most experience and qualifications to seek employment elsewhere, reducing the attractiveness of the call centre.”
No-one from the company was available for comment last night.
HCL is a 34-year-old global IT services company, with $5.5bn revenue, 77,000 professionals, headquarters in India and operations spanning 29 countries.
HCL Technologies in Belfast offers telemarketing, telesales, customer service, provisioning and technical support services.
The company has received almost £5.5m financial support from Invest NI in the last seven years.
The careers section of its website states: “We believe in employees first and that our people are our greatest strength.”