BA faces IT staff protest over offshoring

Labour’s shadow chancellor will today join IT workers to protest against plans by British Airways to outsource and offshore up to 900 technology jobs to India.

John McDonnell will speak as MP for Hayes -- where BA’s HQ at Waterside, Heathrow is located -- and where the 45-minute protest against the cull will go ahead.  

Organised by the GMB, the event is billed as a “public meeting” but also represents industrial action, as the union says some of BA’s affected techies will “walk” from their offices from 12.30.

Sites affected by the offshore outsourcing plan include BA Heathrow (700 redundancies projected), BA Newcastle (100 redundancies projected) and other sites run by the airline.  

As well as opposing the outsourcing, which will see all BA’s “end-user” UK IT jobs exported to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in India, GMB is also accusing BA of flouting visa rules.

In fact, the union says BA has abused the rules on rolling Tier 2 visas, which are meant to be for when employers want to internally move a member of staff from one post to another.  

Echoing the union’s concern, a Home Office-backed report says that possibly “at the expense of” UK IT workers, UK employers using Tier 2 may be “displacing and undercutting” them.

This potential “disadvantage” for Britons was found to most likely exist where the employer (the firm hosting the Tier 2), was involved with a third party or external contract or company.

“BA’s reward for their colleagues’ loyalty is redundancy and to replace them with another company’s cheap labour brought in from abroad on dubious visas,” says GMB’s Mick Rix.

“[We have] already raised the issue of abuse of Tier 2 visas for IT workers for BA, as the regulations currently in place are not designed for this practice.”

Rix added that despite the expected job cull, BA is enjoying huge profits by charging a “high price for a premium service” but wants to have the “cost base of a low cost carrier.”

However BA defended its offshore outsourcing plan, saying the provision of IT services globally was now a "very common practice." It also disputes the number of IT jobs affected by the plan, which it says is more like 200.

A spokesperson for British Airways added: "A contract has been signed with TCS to be the supplier of some IT activities in British Airways, and British Airways has been in consultation with those IT staff affected".

Asked if BA had a message to IT contractors who might be thinking of working at the company, the spokesperson said that BA provides "highly skilled and well-paid" opportunities, further to an apprenticeship scheme that takes in 1,000 people a year.

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