Over 250 call centre staff face redundancy as Indian outsourcing firm HCL Technologies announces plans to close one of its BPO delivery centres in Northern Ireland.
The company proposes to close its call centre in Armagh and reduce staffing at its Belfast facility. That means 425 jobs may be lost, although the company says that it expects to find alternative employment for 40% (170). That leaves 255 jobs that face the axe.
HCL said that "in the current economic conditions some clients were optimizing resources and consolidating in-house".
Anita Barnard, general manager of HCL’s BPO services division, said the company was still committed to Northern Ireland as its ‘centre of excellence’ in call centre services. "We are committed to the long-term development of this centre of excellence and over the next five years we have plans to invest in our technologies and to create new jobs in Northern Ireland," she said in a statement.
"This is devastating news for HCL staff and their families in Northern Ireland,"said Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (CWU). "Armagh is a small community and the closure of this call centre will be a big hit for the local economy. Unemployment is rising and finding alternative work will be a major challenge for these workers.
HCL acquired two call centres in Northern Ireland in 2005, when it bought local call centre business AnswerCall Direct for £3.9 billion.
In April last year, HCL employees in Northern Ireland accused the company of forcing them to accept new pay and employment terms on pain of losing their jobs. The company denied the accusation, saying that "nobody will lose their job".
According to a BBC report at the time, HCL has received over £5 million in government grants from Northern Ireland’s economic development agency.
In September 2011, HCL announced plans to create 80 jobs at a new software delivery centre in Dublin.
In January of this year, the company’s chief strategy officer Shiv Nadar said it that it is "committed to creating local jobs [and] contributing to the welfare of local communities".
HCL’s CEO Vineet Nayar is the author of a bestselling business book named "Employees First, Customers Second".