Hewlett Packard cuts permanent staff, retains contractors

HP has this week announced 934 job losses from its 16,500-strong UK workforce. It has, however retained almost 2,000 temporary staff and contractors.

The news has been condemned by union Unite, which has also predicted a further 1,000 job losses from the firm within the financial year.

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer for IT and communications, said: "This is a further cull by Hewlett Packard of its skilled and experienced UK workforce, and follows nearly 4,000 jobs being cut over the past two years."

He added that the move "undermines the coalition government view that the private sector will fuel job growth out of the economic recession" and said it showed that the jobs designed to replace those lost in manufacturing were now being lost or off-shored.

Unite has warned that remaining workers at Hewlett Packard could be in danger of developing stress-related illnesses due to the reduced workforce. The union said that the retention of contractors and temporary workers "adds insult to injury".

A spokesperson for Hewlett Packard told Contractor UK: "Hewlett Packard is in consultation with the appropriate representative bodies within the UK regarding potential workforce changes that were first discussed with the Hewlett Packard European Works Council in November 2009 and have been part of an ongoing consultation process since then.

"The changes Hewlett Packard is proposing are part of the company's ongoing review of its business that will ensure Hewlett Packard continues to grow in a globally competitive marketplace and deliver world class products and services to its customers."

Adrian Treacy, Director of specialist IT recruiter Arrows Group, commented on why companies may decide to retain contractors and temporary staff whilst making permanent staff redundant. He said: "Many technology companies choose to retain temps and contractors over permanent staff so that they have a more flexible workforce.

"There are peaks and troughs in the IT sector - when developing and launching a new product, organisations will need a large workforce to service this level of activity, but then there will be periods of downtime where far less people are required. Temporary staff can be a great solution - companies have the input of skills when and where they need them but do not have to pay salaries, pensions and other benefits when business is quiet.

"Recruiting contractors is also the ideal way to get access to very niche skills, which are impossible to teach a permanent employee in a short period of time – there are many freelance IT professionals whose careers are focused on plugging their niche skill set into a series of short-term projects and who can therefore provide invaluable input."

Sarah Wray

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