Strike threat at Eir’s call centres recedes as staff accept redundancy terms

650 Dublin staff at Indian outsourcer HCL to leave as roles go to Cork, Limerick and Sligo

About 650 Dublin-based staff are set for compulsory redundancy at HCL Technologies, the Indian outsourced services group, which has allowed Eir  terminate its contract. Photograph: Maxwells

About 650 Dublin-based staff are set for compulsory redundancy at HCL Technologies, the Indian outsourced services group, which has allowed Eir terminate its contract. Photograph: Maxwells

 

The threat of strike action has subsided at the outsourcing company that operates Eir’s call centres, after a divisive internal ballot in which staff voted by a two-to-one margin to accept improved redundancy terms.

About 650 Dublin-based staff are in line for compulsory redundancy at HCL Technologies, the Indian outsourced services group, which recently allowed Eir to terminate its contract following allegations of poor customer service.

Their roles are being shifted to Cork and Limerick – where a further 300 HCL staff are based who will transfer back inhouse to Eir – and a revamped Eir premises in Sligo.

“The ballot result is a strong endorsement of the outcome of negotiations with HCL that have been arrived at in very challenging circumstances,” said Steve Fitzpatrick, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (CWU).

The workers, in particular the Dublin staff at Telephone House which is slated for closure, had threatened strike action last month after HCL offered them “derisory” redundancy terms, according to the CWU.

Worker categories

HCL’s original redundancy offer to staff varied across three separate categories of worker. Staff who transferred to it from other companies, including Eir’s old customer service suppliers and Eir itself, were originally offered two weeks’ pay per year of service, plus one bonus week and pay in lieu of notice.

Staff recruited directly by HCL were also originally offered two weeks per year worked plus the bonus week, and a further two weeks’ flat pay.

Close to 200 people employed at HCL for less than two years, and who had no legal redundancy entitlement, were offered a flat two weeks’ pay.

The strike ballot was backed by the overwhelming majority of staff in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and CWU entered discussions on their behalf with HCL. It is understood from internal sources that Eir also played a role in the discussions as a “mediator”.

With HCL due to lose the Eir contract anyway, and therefore having no incentive to go far beyond statutory redundancy entitlements, it is believed that Eir was asked if it could help fund any improvements in the redundancy package for HCL workers.

‘Enhanced’ package

Eventually, the CWU secured an “enhanced” redundancy package, which was put to staff in another ballot that ended on Wednesday night. Despite heavy opposition from a large number of Dublin-based staff, who challenged the CWU’s strategy in handling HCL staff, the vote was passed.

Some staff who contacted The Irish Times believed there should have been a greater push towards strike action, rather than accepting the improved offer.

It is believed that, for many workers, the “enhanced” package included an increase to four weeks’ pay per year, capped at €600 per week, with an overall cap on the payout of about €28,000. The payout for most staff included all notice and bonus entitlements.

“Redundancy in any situation is very difficult but workers and the union have succeeded in securing significantly enhanced terms that have now received a strong endorsement in a ballot of members,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

“The determination and support of HCL workers and their branch officials has been critical to the successful outcome to this difficult dispute.”