Pru leaving Belfast…

Bad news on the job front. Globalising pressures have led the Prudential to shift its Belfast business to Mumbai in India. It underlines the urgency facing NI business to hike the value base of its own local industry. There is no silver bullet to this. As the ESRI points out in its quarterly analysis, even the Republic is struggling to keep up its past phenomenal growth rate in exports.

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  • mnob

    Mick, its very easy to concentrate on the bad news – after all 500 jobs lost is very headline grabbing, but the story is that this sector is absolutely booming. More than 500 jobs have been added since January alone. When you have India’s biggest contact centre setting up shop in Belfast that tells you a lot.

  • seabhac siulach

    “When you have India’s biggest contact centre setting up shop in Belfast that tells you a lot.”

    Yes, Indians coming to the six counties to set up call centres (the modern day sweatshops) tells us a lot about the ‘health’ of the economy…i.e., one based on low paid jobs outside of the bloated public service sector. Not to mention the inflated numbers not working and on ‘disability’ benefits, etc., etc., although this helps to keep the headline unemployment rate down…

    About the Pru leaving…a case of the rats leaving the sinking ship.

  • mnob

    They are coming because there are skills and abilities here that they cant service from India. Its not a case of replacing centres in India with those in NI.

    Your perception of ‘call centres’ being modern day sweatshops is based on ignorance. This is a diverse sector which employs people at all levels and abilities and in all industry sectors. The one generalisation that you can make about contact centres is that you cant generalise about them.

  • TAFKABO

    I’ve worked in a few Belfast call centres, and if that’s a sweatshop, bring it on.
    Sure the work is sometimes low paid, but not always, and whilst it can be difficult, it can also be the easiest job you’ll ever get.

    Some of them even let you spend all day surfing the net whilst you work.

  • matt jones

    Terrible decision from the Prudential. Do we really want another bloody Indian Call centre. Bad enough that the Indian Call centres can hardly understand most regional accents let alone Belfast. I will be taking my business elsewhere.

  • seabhac siulach

    “Your perception of ‘call centres’ being modern day sweatshops is based on ignorance. ”

    Not so, based on experience…

    “This is a diverse sector which employs people at all levels and abilities and in all industry sectors”

    Yes, of course, because many well trained and highly educated people end up working in them due to lack of any job opportunities elsewhere…

    This does not increase their value or make them any less low paid…
    They are low-paid stop-gap no-experience-required jobs and not the type of inward investment the six counties should be looking for. I would also say that the Indians located in the six counties (instead of elsewhere in the UK) because they know that here they can pay their sweatshop workforce even more pitiful wages than elsewhere in the UK due to the lower standard of living here…hardly something to boast or feel confident about…

    I mean, it is hardly a measure of economic wellbeing when Indian low-paid jobs are attracted to the six counties, is it?

    In comparison, the situation in the south is positively rosy…with yet another high quality company (Sandisk, a flash storage card maker) relocating to Dublin from the Netherlands…something the six counties can only dream about. These hi-tech high value jobs are what the six counties needs, not low-paid low value call centre jobs…no matter how nice the working environment (Tafkabo)

    But being tied to the UK means they will not come due to the differential of corporation tax. One of the costs of unity, it would seem…

  • ncm

    “They are coming because there are skills and abilities here that they cant service from India”

    The only skill we have that they don’t is the ability to speak English without an Indian accent. I work for a prominant IT firm in Belfast which is owned by an Americam corporation who are currently sending our work to India, because the Indians are equally skilled and a whole lot cheaper.

  • On the second link, Mick, the ESRI is obliged to warn people about potential threats. They have remained that – potential – for some time, although I’ll accept that as time goes on, and as the ‘potential’ threats mount, some prophet of doom is bound to get it right eventually.

    The biggest danger in my view to the economy in the South is the election coming in 2007 (which the ESRI acknowledges). Pre-election spending is always popular, ever reckless, and of necessity myopic. Two things govern politics in Ireland, especially led by a PD government (sic) – time and money. Everyone supposedly wants lots of wealth, and they want it now. Bugger the future. Time to get over ourselves a little, stop mutual back slapping, and pay attention to people who are paid to research this kind of stuff, rather than people who are paid to assuage the incessant requests for instant gratification from their constituents.

  • Rafa Benitez

    “Your perception of ‘call centres’ being modern day sweatshops is based on ignorance. “

    I’ve worked in an IT call centre for a large multinational company, and I would agree that this type of work is equivalent (in the services industry)to a sweatshop.
    You get paid sweet f.a, have to deal with conflicting call targets and put up with people either screaming or being exceptionally thick, all day long. It is a thankless job, bottom rung on the ladder sort of work. It is also a volatile market as this thread proves as usually, a decent grasp of the english language and a tick-sheet is all that is needed by an operator. This is not the sort of work that should be sought after for a country, as it will always move to a cheaper country.

  • Scotsman

    Was there not an announcement the day before about 200 new HR jobs in Belfast? Worth mentioning, I would have thought.

  • mnob

    The issues described above are to do with people taking a stopgap job at the bottom rungs of the contact centre industry – at a level and salary beneath their abilities – then when a more appopriate job comes along, moving on with a negative perception of the industry.

    I said that the industry has *jobs* at all levels and can offer a very rewarding career (yes in terms of salaries as well).

    Congratulations to Dublin for getting 30 new jobs as a high tech company moves its sales & marketing there, but I can’t really see the relevance to this thread.

  • Cataegus

    I think it is a bad mistake for the Pro as in India it is the well educated who speak English. Therefore if another opportunity arises they are off. They will have a high staff turnover. Also we have all experienced the language difficulties with our different usage of the common language. I just love it when a computer goes down and I phone up about some conflict and get a friendly Indian accent, “How can I help you Sir.” So in my broad Belfast I start and within 5 minutes we are both utterly confused. (and I spend a considerable part of my youth in India)

    However most people in NI don’t realise the extreme weakness of the economy and the underlying economic problem.

    India and China produce more graduates than Europe and USA. So the conventional wisdom of going up market or relying on intellectual capability and property rights is questionable especially as in both these countries the concept of respecting patents is far from universal.

    Production is cheaper in these countries and no amount of burying our heads in the sand and protesting that it is simply sweat shops will change that, believe me it used to be sweat shops but much of the industry is right up to date. Also it is better to invest in property and other sectors in the expanding economies of the East, much quicker turn around. Things get done much quicker.

    Indeed you don’t have to go as far as India for £19 you can get a flight to Prague.

    So the question is how do we build a strong economy, what sectors and how do we encourage real growth and not this consumer lead nonsense, which is basically based on borrowing against assets and spending current wealth.

    If there is no business then there will be no money for schools, hospitals, old age pensions or disability benefits.

    The economy should be the political priority here instead of the convoluted nonsense that passes for politics in these parts.

  • seabhac siulach

    “I said that the industry has *jobs* at all levels and can offer a very rewarding career (yes in terms of salaries as well).”

    You might as well be arguing that McDonalds has jobs and salaries at all levels too…doesn’t mean that the majority of jobs in that company are not low level McJobs all the same…
    It is a meaningless argument. The truth is that the majority of call centre jobs are low paid low value jobs.

    The relevance of those jobs in Dublin is that it emphasises the economic differences North and South, a linkage made by Mick in the header of this thread. The South gets the hi-tech jobs, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft, etc., etc., while the North gets call centres…

    On the plus side for the six counties did get these jobs…

    “Meanwhile, over 200 jobs are to be created in Belfast as part of a £10m (€14.44m) expansion by Reed Managed Services.

    The company employs 62 people in Belfast.

    The development has been given almost £2m (€2.9m) in grant aid and training support by Invest Northern Ireland INI). ”

    So not all completely black, more a shade of very very dark grey…

  • Rafa Benitez

    “I said that the industry has *jobs* at all levels and can offer a very rewarding career (yes in terms of salaries as well).”

    Well from personal experience, I will partially agree with you here. In general it is viewd as a lower rung job because it is a lower rung job. Staff turnovers in call centres are pretty high. I found the possibillity of career advancment in the industry slim, as the managment structure is very shallow, meanining if you hang in there long enough, and someone above you get’s tired of it all, you may stand a chance of promotion. Otherwise you better make sure you are logged into your phone bang on your starting time, make sure that you log in and out for your breaks (and don’t even think about having an extra cigarette to steady your nerves, else you will log back in late and could face a penalty) and log out right on your finishing time (not before), unless you are on a call, in which case you can’t go until the bugger at the other end p!sses off. Don’t spend too much time on a call, but try and offer the customer a quality service. Don’t spend too long out of call waiting and make sure you and your team hit their call targets, else you may not get all your pay (if you are on performance related pay). Remember, the phone is watching you, and it measures your day down to the last millisecond. NOW BACK TO WORK!!

  • mnob

    Not at all SS, what you are doing is equating McDonalds with all restaurants, and saying that because you once had a job there you have experience of the entire leisure and food industries.

    My point about the sandisk jobs is that they are not high tech jobs but sales & marketing.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Cataegus(Crataegus?) : “So the question is how do we build a strong economy, what sectors and how do we encourage real growth and not this consumer lead nonsense, which is basically based on borrowing against assets and spending current wealth.”

    The best way to answer that question is to not ask it. Why does anyone think the eejits (eejits at best, possibly crooks) in InvestNI or any other agency of any other government have any clue what companies in what sector are best for the economy? The money shovelled into these schemes would be better spent on anything else, such as roads, health, education, tax cuts.

    I say the South’s economy has done well despite these targeted grants, not because of them. Success or failure of a business should surely be based on whether it survives in the market, not based on whether some civil servant is impressed with some upstart’s Powerpoint presentation.

    Unless their own money is on the line (as in the case of bank manager considering a loan appliction for example) they won’t have a clue what’s good.

    All these jobs come and go. So-called high value jobs are just as mobile as any other job. The economy will do fine once they pull the plug on the public sector. Education should be pursued for it’s own sake. We should quit wasting our hard earned wealth on nonsense like ringtones.

  • Sean

    Let them go to India with their low wages – they came to NI because of the job skills? yeah right. Doesnt take a uni degree to wear a headset and take crap from angry customers.

    By the way, call centres are usually sweat shops and not worth the low wages that we get paid. Take Stream AKA Scream International – bad pay, unqualified management, pay increases frozen, temp contracts, ban on internet browsing, vacation disallowed due to numbers, management shouting to take more calls..need I go on?

    If you land yourself in a call centre that allows you to surf the net all day then you are a very lucky person.

    Ulster should NO to call centres – after all we say NO to everything else.

  • Jim

    Invest NI would be better setting up an NI based company that Owns/finances/trains call centres in India.. That would be good business.

  • Cataegus

    Ocassional

    “Why does anyone think the eejits (eejits at best, ……..) in InvestNI”

    I think you flatter them!!

    I would scrap the bulk of grants and close most of the funding bodies immediately. They are a waste of money and totally detached from the real world. The money and time wasted trying to make schemes fit various funding criteria is criminal.

    I was thinking more of tax structures and ensuring efficient essential services. We need to be realistic about tax differentials between countries and should be argue for setting ours to be competitive with our near neighbours (of course the Assembly doesn’t have such power), but we should collectively whinge.

    Then there is the matter of tertiary education and the expansion of places in applied subjects. Perhaps a new University in Fermanagh? What about encouraging cross border medical and dental care! Anything that gets money flowing in this direction.

    I utterly agree about reducing the size of the public sector but more important than simply reducing is making it more efficient and rationalising and reducing the number of departments and clearly deciding and devolving much to the council level. Response rates need to increase and we really do need to question the role of some departments. For example why on earth are we employing Planners to look at someone’s Kitchen extension!!!!!! Extend permitted developments, have maximum times to consider applications or default approved etc etc. Set up a system that is positive and not negative and enable senior civil servants to make decisions on the running of their departments and reward those who improve efficiency and get rid of those that don’t. Time for a clean out.

    Sean

    “Let them go to India with their low wages – they came to NI because of the job skills? yeah right. Doesnt take a uni degree to wear a headset and take crap from angry customers.”

    Not everyone has a university degree and if the economy goes belly up a University degree won’t be of any use anyway. Won’t impress many in the soup queue.