An impending strike ballot by employees of HCL Technologies, the outsourcing provider that operates Eir’s call centre, doesn’t bode well for a smooth transition as Eir takes the centre’s operation back inhouse.
Eir decided to end its contract with India-headquartered HCL to raise service standards at the call centre. When it announced it was taking back the call centre earlier this month, Eir suggested a six-month handover period.
“During this period, Eir and HCL will endeavour to minimise disruption through detailed planning and co-operation,” it said. This was, in itself, a tacit admission that there would be disruption. For Eir customers contacting its call centre, it seemed to be warning that things may get worse before they get better.
A potential strike by call centre staff in the middle of an already-messy handover is the last thing Eir, or its customers, need as it pivots to a lean, mean strategy under its new French owners.
Close to 1,000 HCL staff in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo are, theoretically, supposed to transfer over to Eir as part of the handover process. In reality, however, the majority of these staff will be made redundant.
Dublin-based HCL staff working on the Eir contract have been told they must move to one of the regional centres outside the capital if they want to keep their jobs. If they decline, they have been offered a redundancy package that is barely above their legal statutory requirement of two weeks pay per year of service.
Meanwhile, inhouse staff at Eir have been able to avail in recent months of a voluntary exit scheme that offered five weeks pay per year of service.
Most Dublin HCL staff are expected to decline the move to Cork, Limerick or Sligo to work for Eir's call centre. But the terms on offer have been dismissed as "derisory" by the Communications Workers Union, which wants an upgrade.
For now, the dispute is between the CWU and HCL. If the row isn’t solved soon, however, the problem will become Eir’s.