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Let us sack you happy

As reported in the last Catalyst, Britain's biggest insurer is axing over 2,000 jobs in one of the worst examples of outsourcing to hit the UK. It is now clear the job losses are to be centred in Norwich, York and Perth. Norwich has already been hit in a drive to outsource 900 jobs to Delhi and Bangalore. Amicus, who called the move 'despicable' and vowed to fight it, has delivered little in terms of saving workers' jobs.

Outsourcing, recently endorsed by Labour Cabinet ministers as good for business ("and therefore good for us"), is projected to strip 200,000 jobs from the UK by 2008. Most of those affected are doing data input or call centre work: sectors already notorious for their high turnover of staff. Hence workers with little legal or union protection are being protected, and while the unions aren't much cop, they are invariably better than nothing.

Steve Bennett, who lost his job at Norwich Union in March said: "A large proportion of the staff have been there for under two years. so there's not much chance of any action being taken. The management have been underhand on a couple of issues. To begin with they announced a 'goodwill' bonus of £500 to anyone working their full notice, subject to performance and attendance. Six weeks later they moved the goal posts and announced the bonus would only go to staff who wouldn' t be getting statutory redundancy. Just 20% of staff will now receive money." Norwich Union also withdrew the bonus to anyone subject to disciplinary warnings in the last two years. Of course, suddenly the number of these has increased. One worker was disciplined for taking one day off following the death of his grandfather.

3,000 UK jobs have already been moved to India in the past year which at an average UK call centre wage of £ 12,500 a year has sucked around £37.5 million out of Britain's economy. Indian wages for the same job are £1,200 a year, so India's economy has benefited by a mere £3.6million. So, guess who makes out of it?!

Norwich Union currently employs around 30,000 people in the UK, and has refused to rule out further outsourcing in the future in a bid to maximise their profits. Taking all costs into account, Norwich Union hopes to save 40% on wage bills. Although it is unlikely any of these cost savings will be passed onto consumers. With 2.5 million customers, it is the world's 7th largest insurer, with a market value of £10.8 billion, and loads of naff adverts. "Let us quote you happy"? Try asking the thousands of workers thrown on the scrapheap how happy they have been quoted.

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