Workers at BT Ireland are to stage a protest in Dublin today to highlight what they say is discrimination against the company’s workforce in the Republic.
Staff claim management are refusing to treat employees in the Republic and the North equally, despite operating its business on a 32-county basis.
I don’t know many details about this particular case, but I was thinking about the general question of how great Northern Ireland is as a ‘nearshore’ solution to keep wages down, particularly in service industries where the nature of the work is such that it may be too risky to transfer to the likes of Bangalore. Unhappy with your wages? There’s a chap two hours up or down the road who’ll do the same job for 25% less, so I’d get the head down if I wuz you. That’s the light in which the recent announcement about the 5,000 IFSC ought to be viewed.
In this case it looks as though there is union representation in the North and none in the Republic. So it isn’t really a matter of one location existing permanently as the most favourable option. The point here at the moment seems to be: run an all-Ireland operation so that the company is in a position to tell the Communications Workers Union to go to hell. Then, once the union goes to hell, the firm can start playing one location off against the other in order to drive costs down further.