Gloom as call centre firm confirms 700 job losses

OUTSOURCED call centre operator Webhelp has confirmed the loss of 700 jobs in the region as it closes bases in Aintree and Bolton.

First mooted in September, the company said the call centres, which it runs for internet shopping company Shop Direct, are not commercially viable.

Webhelp said it would shift some jobs to a lower-cost operation in South Africa, where  unions say the staff therer are paid less than £2.40 and hour, while a Shop Direct ‘centre of excellence’ will be established in Cardiff.

A statement said: “The new structure will enable the business to more effectively support the changing shape of customer contact behaviour, and includes the realignment of operations to other sites in the UK and South Africa.”

David Turner, Webhelp’s UK chief executive said: “In the last few months we’ve worked closely with USDAW and our employee consultative forums to come up with a plan that would keep the contact centres in Bolton and Aintree operating at the same level as they are now.

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to agree a commercially viable way of doing that. However, we have been able to make some modifications to the original proposal and I would like to thank the union for their hard work to get us to this point.”

USDAW claimed the move to shift jobs overseas was “morally bankrupt” and alleged that Webhelp would eventually close the Cardiff centre too.

Divisional officer Mike Aylward said: “Our members are on the floor after hearing the truth behind this morally bankrupt decision to close Aintree and Bolton. No British worker can compete with £2.39 per hour and they shouldn’t have to. Companies should have loyalty to the workforce and communities that have made them what they are.”