back to article Co-op IT workers vote on strike action

Members of union Unite at the Co-op are voting on possible strike action today to prevent compulsory redundancies when work is moved out to India. French firm Steria took over the Co-op's financial services IT department in 2007. The 176 staff were told in the summer that work would be moved to India and the company was looking …

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Not quite..

Not quite the "we do what's best for the people" image the Co-op likes to sell. Which is a shame, it'd be nice to see someone not willing to screw people for profit. Sell contract to a typical company -> they see outsourcing profit opportunity -> jobs lost, service degrades, profit!

Fail.

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Anonymous Coward

I like the term "expects"

So actually they don't know if it will save money.

It probably won't, but it will look good on the SDM's career. Steria probably have a target to outsource x% of business to India this year, regardless of any savings it might make.

Most people I know find that outsourcing to India, saves very little in the long run, other than in accountants heads.

Anyway shouldn't the Co-op be looking at this from an ethical and environmental stand point before they let Steria do this. In fact was the choice of Steria particularly ethical in the first place, are they an ethical company?

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Everybody out!

Seeing that so many companies are looking to offshore to take advantage of the poorly paid or underprivileged at the expense of so many in this country....

...would the last person out please switch off the light?

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Pirate

Of course the money saved....

Of course the money saved by the ceos will go towards a new pool or car or a $20,000 birthday for their 5 years old sons or daughters.

Kinda like Bioveris..... Dad can I have 6 million dollars? Sure son!

Son takes the money then the SEC threatens to delist them if the son does not put the money back in he BIOVERIS Bank account. GRRRRR!!! I hae those CEO types! Go swagger about with something other than money!

thank you.

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Err...

Are Coop financial services the same people as Coop Bank (and smile) or Coop Insurance services? If so, 176 staff really doesn't seem to be a lot. Any chance of a clarification?

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Unhappy

Fair trade

And there's the Co-op food shop trumpeting it's Fair Trade activities, and the banking arm likewise it's ethical investment policies!

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Hypocrites!

All over our local CoOp is posters promoting, local produce, fair trade, ethical working etc etc. But when it comes to it's own staff, it's a case of screw you, we can get it cheaper.

Well hope the staff f**k off and buy their 2 for £5 chickens and discount tea and coffee...

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Typical Co-op

No surprise here, the Co-operative Group is intent on swallowing all the other co-op societies to become "Tesco with pseudo ethics" -> treat staff like disposable commodities like Tesco, but claim your an "ethical employer with good staff policies"

RIP the co-operative movement, seems the mighty pound was too tempting for the ivory tower dwellers to resist.

Anon as I currently work for a society about to be swallowed up into the hive mind :P

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Linux

Rusty Shackleford says'

and the Co-op like to portray themselves as the 'ethical' ones.

Not much flippin' ethical about (and let's face it) exploiting Johnny Foreigner and throwing your employee (invariably 'oop north) the t'chap with t'whippet on t'scrap 'eap is there.

'appen that's reet out of order and no mistake!

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Coat

Interesting

When I applied for my Co-op business account, one of criteria for a successful application was that my company wasn't involved in outsourcing.

Hypocrisy? Surely not...

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artificial economy

It could be argued that the ability of companies to out source and continue to survive has helped artificially prop up the UK for some time now.

If IT folk in the UK are too expensive as their living costs are too high, then there is something wrong with the cost of living in the UK.

Unfortunately for everyone but the board level, these companies can still make money at while the people who actually make the company work (its staff) are gradually screwed out of everything.

I guess we should all move to India if we want IT work.

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If the Co-op start selling stuff

at Indian prices I have no objection, but I won't hold my breath.

Global market my arse.

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Wrong, wrong wrong

If there is one organisation that should be keeping 100% of its workforce UK based then it is the co-op. So much for ethics and the principles of a co-operative'society' which is for the benefit of its customers and workforce.

Outsourcing to another country does more harm than good in as much that whilst everybody _may_ see a small saving at the till, significant revenue is going offshore, denying UK people jobs and the UK economy the money those people would spend. Now add in the cost of unemployment benefit and related 'perks' of not working and the costs to the nation become even bigger.

Co-operative? Not any more, it seems...

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Unhappy

Steria - Pah!

The coop (Isn't that where you keep chickens?) hasn't got a hope. Even the internal helldesk at Steria has been outsourced to India. The helldesk staff out there seem to be incapable of understanding that a great many employees of an IT Services company know more than they do and to dump the script and just answer the bleeding questions!

A disgruntled Steria employee, anonymous for obvious reasons

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So?

At least when these out of work IT workers go bankrupt the Co-op will give them a bank account!

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Stop

"Silly English kniggets"!

"Steria is an employer of choice for many people (- in India) who chose a career in our industry.

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my experience of outsourcing to india

Is that it has increased costs rather than saved them. Everytime i am involved in a project that has offshored work, it has taken twice as long to do the designs, getting them down to the lowest possible level (practically code, as anything higher appears to be baffling). and then ages to review all the code coming back and send it back for update (rinse and repeat ad-nauseum, or at least until your deadline is due and you have to settle for what you've got) I have always had to do more work supporting an offshore development team, than i would have had to do to develop the damn thing myself!

The most annoying part is that i'm never the one to make the decision that i won't have enough time to do something, the decisions get made before anyone technical gets a look in.

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I don'y like co-op

The company which advertises itself as ethical and says it doesn't lend money to bad regimes, and yet it is the biggest funder of the New Labour regime by way of a colossal interest free overdraft over the last 10 years which would see any other organisation declared bankrupt. Indeed, it would ordinarily be illegal to keep extending credit to an organisation in such financial dire straits.

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Stop

Shame them - get this into the main stream media

We are in a minority (what is the readership of El Reg?), this will get scant coverage in the national news media.

I live in the East of England where the Co-op a quite big, these decisions harm the "brand" of the movement. Public knowledge might have some effect, the news on this site will have hardly any.

Also, will it be true outsourcing, or will Steria import workers (HSMP or the new equivalent) - in which case this is completely unethical. BT in Martlesham have TCS and Infosys staff in their hundreds on site - "outsourcing" to India is bad enough, importing low cost labour is scandalous (though I suspect it's good for Ipswich where they all seem to live).

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Co-op Insurance CIS was no better

With no stakeholders to answer to, it was run as a private club for the benefit of the directors. The grass roots worked their little tails off, their only benefit quite a nice lunch room. The directors swanned around in big cars meeting "clients" on golf courses in between bouts of refusing to invest in anything that would make the place run efficiently. (ie be less of a giant WTF).

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@Jeremy

It's not a case of the IT workers living costs being too high. All the workers in the UK have these same living costs. Once you outsource to India, you have all kinds of overheads to bridge the management gap, so at that point, you should really outsource the management.

When the management is elsewhere, hey, outsource the accountants, so they can meet with the managers.

End result is that you have only the 'customer facing' people left in the UK, and the whole of the rest of the business is outsourced. Especially the hugely expensive CEO positions (after all, they need to be right there for the management chain to call on).

Somehow, I don't think the rest of it'll happen. Just the IT.. As after all, every user knows that the techs just wave a wand, and it happens by magic yesterday, doesn't it?

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BT outsourcing to India

Don't get me started.

OK you got me started.

Why oh why are the managers who decide on outsourcing so clueless about how to make it work? A large and very important development which requires multiple mods to multiple complex systems and multiple complex new components gets outsourced to India. After it's implemented, it becomes painfully obvious that fewer than 50% of orders go through correctly. I'm in a team engaged to find the leaks and plug them. I ask for a description of the end-to-end design. Cut a long story short, BT didn't explicitly ask for one, so it didn't get written, so the components don't talk to each other correctly. And of course there's no audit log, so you can't find out where the ball is dropped. And it takes literally months to establish those two facts because nobody will give a straight answer .

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Power in a Union

(Us) IT folks need to get a bit more organised - off-shoring will in my view, in the not too distant future, be proven to be the smoke and mirrors from accountants that it really is, and at that point ALL IT staff in the UK should demand massive pay increases to keep the vital systems running and refuse to transfer people or knowledge to off-shoring ventures.

We don't yet seemed to have got to the point where we make it clear in no uncertain terms that IT keeps a business running - can you think of any major corporation that would not go bankrupt if all its IT systems were down for a week or two?

I say it is about time we started holding them to ransom !!!!!!!! mwah-ha-ha

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India Helpdesks

Do you realise that the Indian helpdesks have such a high personnel turnover that 40% of the people have been there less than 2 months? And that their training is less than a week long, and consists mainly of how to press buttons in the CRM system? No wonder they stick to the script like a drowning man clings to a raft, and no wonder they leave in droves for any other job they can get. The people are OK, they just don't stand a chance.

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*Ring Ring*

"I need a loan to extend my garage"

"I'm sorry, sir, this is personal finance, I'm putting you through to business now."

"No you don't understand, the garage on my house."

"Even if you live there, sir, the garage is your business and not covered by personal finance."

"I mean the garage where I keep my car."

"Then you have a business parking arrangement, that doesn't make it personal."

The sad thing here being that the indian I am depicting above is probably pretty bright he just has a gap in his knowledge of our silly language.

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Anonymous Coward

@Shame them - get this into the main stream media

Good idea but it won't happen. What you see at Martlesham is repeated across almost every business park in the South East of England.

I'm constantly amazed that no one in the press (this includes you at "The Register") is interested in how investigating many good quality IT jobs are disappearing from the UK.

- No running total of the number of IT jobs cut.

- No special features on the latest companies to TUPE staff to poorer T&C followed by staff cuts one year later.

- No coverage on the large amounts of offshore staff working on UK sites nor on the abuse of the work permit and visa system that must be happening.

Let's face it. This has been going on for at least five years but as far as I can tell no one outside those of us working in IT and under threat has noticed. I've got the message. I'm paying down the mortgage as fast as I can and I'm trying to figure out what career comes next. The only good thing I can say is that my employers have taken so much fun out of my job that when the axe falls I'll be grateful.

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Dead Vulture

IT in the UK vs. Europe

I've just had my contract extended for another 9 months (I work for a bank.) No job difficulties, here. Actually, my employer is complaining that they can't get enough qualified people like me.

Can't think why (actually, I can.) I think the elephant in the room is a sum of these causes:

a) The dumbing-down of Computer Science study in schools (many schools dropped it entirely) and universities (some made the mistake of teaching Java in place of everything else.) Many CS students graduate from university without even as much ability to write a driver in C or assembly language.

b) The outsourcing of lower-end jobs (one of the first things to go was software engineering, since it could be done anywhere. Then configuration management, and even UNIX admin / app support has gone overseas, too. I know, because I've worked in all these fields.

c) The complete lack of any companies with any willingness to train their staff. Yes, believe it or not, they actually think that training to have a career in IT is free. Pay in the UK often reflects this opinion, too ... although things are better in Europe (however, there are always two or three employers who like to take the proverbial.)

There are still good-quality jobs to be found in Europe (I will agree with Anonymous Coward that IT jobs in the UK are generally pretty abysmal.) However, you'd better be prepared to learn another language if you want to work here - many employers are wising-up to cheap (yet crap) labour taking over from the local, talented workers. Discriminating on race or nationality is illegal, so they simply discriminate on your ability to speak the local lingo. Can't speak Dutch / German / French? Better apply elsewhere, then.

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Alert

what about the data protection act?

Co-op Financial Services - so that will be sensitive personal data - in which case they need to ask their customers if it is OK to export their sensitive personal data, even if that is only occasional access by a code cutter or sys admin outside the EU for support services. They haven't asked me (yet - and my answer will be "no thanks").

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IT Angle

NUIT

Surely it's time for an independant National Union of Information Technologists?

As long as we continue to be represented in a half-hearted manner by *unions* who fail to understand us, who are 'partners' with corporations who 'recognise' them (see: Lapdogs), and who simply are not set up to meet our industrial needs then we are the easiest victim for the employers.

IT has always been viewed as a 'cost centre', not a profit centre, and we are often called upon only when something is 'broken' leading to uneducated middle and upper management having nothing but negativity and contempt for the work we do.Clearly then, when its time to make cuts, you can see why we're often the first to go, either in terms of support, equipment or personnel.

It's become policy across many corporations to only engage in negotiations with 'recognised business partners in the union sector' - this equates to a level of control and regulation that is entirely the antithesis of the base concept of unionisation, which is that if a large number of people decide to take industrial action over relevant issues then we are legally allowed to do so - we do NOT require the 'permission' of our employers and their national union partners!

So, wake up employers, outsourcers and unions - remember the teamsters and coal-miners - it can happen again and you would not like the amount of power the NUIT could wield at a national level.

Please, someone with some political understanding get this ball rolling - you'd have no shortage of support!

AC this time around, because I need to protect my identity until the NUIT can represent me!

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Coat

Definitition of redundancy

Surely the jobs have to have ceased to exist. If having been moved offshore is ceasing to exist the employment legislation is madder than I thought.

I don't usually post as anonymous but this time there are good reasons.

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Ian
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Good luck with the ballot

I hope you get a good YES vote in the ballot, and if you have to come out I hope IT staff everywhere will do collections for you. It would be great to send a message to employers that it isn't acceptable to dump us on the scrap-heap so they can cut costs - whether by moving the jobs within the UK or internationally.

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