Conduit outsources directory inquiry jobs to Philippines

 

LATE-NIGHT calls to one of the State’s main directory inquiry services are being answered from the Philippines after the company that operates the service, Conduit, outsourced the night shift to a call centre in Manila.

The move involves the loss of 10 jobs in Conduit’s Dublin headquarters and has prompted fears among the 120 staff working on the day shift of the 11850 directory inquiry service that their jobs could also be transferred to southeast Asia. The night-shift workers, some of whom have up to 10 years’ service, are being laid off later this month. Staff say that they have been offered a redundancy package of two weeks per year of service plus the statutory minimum.

Conduit switched the answering of directory inquiry calls between 10pm and 7am to Manila last June on a trial basis, and recently decided to make the new arrangement permanent.

KGB, a large US call centre operation that owns Conduit, runs a call centre in the Philippine capital employing 3,000 people. Wages in such call centres are typically about $2-$3 an hour, much less than the rates paid to Irish call centre employees.

At its height, Conduit employed over 1,000 staff in its Dublin call centre, but numbers have since fallen to about 350. Some of the workers at the directory inquiry service are union members, but the company does not recognise or negotiate with unions.

In a statement, the company confirmed the job losses and the transfer of the service to Manila, which will take effect formally from September 22nd. It said: “All employees have been offered alternative shifts and whilst two employees have taken up this offer, the remaining employees have opted for voluntary redundancy.”

Conduit includes Tourism Ireland, Vodafone and Ulster Bank among its clients, but the recent loss of a contract with Bord Gáis led to redundancies in the company. However, it says it continues to recruit.

The company was founded 12 years ago to take advantage of the deregulation of European directory inquiries markets. It gained a foothold in the Irish market when it opened and later, entered the market in Switzerland, Spain and Austria. In 2006, it was sold to a Bahreini investment firm and a US call centre operator, InfoNXX, for €90 million. InfoNXX, later renamed as KGB, later assumed full control of the business.

Competition has increased recently between 11850, Eircom’s 11811 service and a newer rival Call 11890, with some providers offering free information for calls made from landlines.