Eir is taking the contract for its call centre back inhouse in a move that will bring 950 outsourced staff back into the company fold.
It has decided to end the contract with HCL Technologies, the Indian company that operates its call centres from facilities in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. HCL staff in India also work on the contract. It will continue to run Eir’s webchat system and provide certain back-office functions.
The termination of the deal comes after the telco, which was taken over this year by French investors, had been in discussions with the Indian contractor for several months over poor standards of customer service. Eir’s management was particularly concerned that some customers became frustrated dealing with HCL, and so would go around the call centre to contact Eir directly anyway.
Staff at HCL were informed by management on Tuesday afternoon of the proposed move to bring their roles back inhouse at Eir. The majority of those affected will either have to relocate out of Dublin to other facilities, or take redundancy.
It is understood that Telephone House, a Dublin inner city complex occupied by HCL with about 650 workers on the call centre, will be shut by early 2019 and the staff there offered roles working for Eir elsewhere.
A further 300 HCL staff employed on the Eir contract in Citywest, Cork and Limerick will also be brought back inhouse. All staff who make the move over to Eir will keep their working conditions under transfer of undertakings rules.
The call centre function will in future be operated by Eir itself from the existing premises in Cork and Limerick, which are to be extended, as well as at a newly revamped facility in Sligo.
Dublin-based staff currently employed by HCL on the Eir contract, who do not want to transfer to Cork, Limerick or Sligo, will be offered a redundancy package, although the terms have yet to be agreed with unions.
It is understood that the terms that will be offered to the HCL staff are unlikely to be as generous as the most recent voluntary redundancy scheme within Eir, through which about 750 staff have left the business with five weeks pay per year of service, in addition to a lump sum .
An issue may also arise due to the fact that a sizeable proportion of the departing HCL staff, who are being asked to transfer, won’t have any redundancy entitlements at all, because they haven’t completed the necessary two years’ service. The Dublin facility is understood to have a high staff churn rate.
"The failure of both HCL and Eir to be upfront with workers on the future of their jobs, the numbers affected, the terms they propose for exit packages, timelines, and what other arrangements they are making to provide these services, is unacceptable," said Steve Fitzpatrick, the general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (CWU). "Workers have endured months of anxiety and distress at the speculation of significant job losses without any formal communication from either company."
“We will examine the proposals when they come. But our national executive council has already pre-authorised us to ballot for industrial action if necessary, if the terms on offer don’t meet expectations.”
Eir says the handover from HCL will take about six months: “During this period, Eir and HCL will endeavour to minimise disruption through detailed planning and co-operation between the two companies.”
Separately, more than 2,000 Eir staff are about to ballot on a new pay deal with pay rises of 2.7 per cent annually over the next three years, a total of 8.3 per cent over the period.