Monday, June 6, 2011

Vodafone Sackings - The unacceptable face of globalisation

The announcement by Vodafone that it plans to cut over 130 jobs from its workforce in the 26 counties and ‘outsource’ them to India and Egypt has outraged the Communications Workers Union and led to condemnation from Sinn Féin and others.

Meeting Vodafone workers in Dundalk

Most of the jobs are expected to go in Louth. The impact on those affected will be traumatic. The affect on the local economy, which is already reeling from the imposition of the Universal Social Charge and austerity cuts to government programmes and public services, will be incalculable.

Last week I met the Deputy General Secretary of the CWU Terry Delaney and on Friday four local workers from the call centre in Dundalk met me to explain their concerns and to express their determination to fight this decision by Vodafone.

The decision to axe these jobs is typical of the approach multi-national companies take toward local investments.

Multinationals primarily take decisions based on costs and profits. If they can produce the same service or product elsewhere in the world at a cheaper price and for a greater profit they will follow the money. It’s called globalisation.

They have no loyalty to the local community. They have no loyalty to their workforce.

A good case in point is the Visteon Corporation which was set up by the Ford Motor Corporation to run a number of factories previously directly owned by the Ford company. In March 2009 the directors of Visteon UK put their company into administration.

That day, 210 men and women employed at the Belfast plant of Visteon were told that their jobs ceased to exist. That information came by letter from the management of Visteon UK.

The statutory 90 day consultation was not afforded to the workers. No information was given to them about their rights and entitlements. They were denied any right of reply.

Moreover, their right to Ford terms and conditions, including the lifetime protection of their discretionary pension in payment increases, contained in the ‘Agreement governing the separation of the Ford Visteon organisation’, was binned by Visteon.

This was unacceptable and contemptible behaviour by the management of these two companies.

In light of this the workers rightly and courageously took over the plant and refused to leave until Ford and Visteon negotiated a satisfactory agreement on redundancy and pensions.

They refused to be cowed or intimidated by threat of legal action and lobbied and fought for their rights. And their actions encouraged their union colleagues in Britain.

Like Ford, Vodafone is a huge multi-national. Through its investments in Ireland it controls over 40% of the mobile phone market and has almost two and half million subscribers.

Last year Vodafone made profit here of €122.3 million and paid an additional €125 million in a dividend back to its parent company. In total Vodafone in Ireland has contributed over €2.2 billion to the profits of this multi-national.

So, Vodafone receives grants and tax breaks to set up in the south of Ireland – I am currently waiting the Minister coming back to me with detail of this – they make huge profits but then arbitrarily sack 130 workers and move their jobs to a cheaper location.

No loyalty to the workers who contributed to those profits. No loyalty to the Irish people who subscribe to Vodafone.

This attitude emerges clearly in the minute of a meeting the CWU had with Vodafone Management. The Union representatives questioned Vodafone about the jobs it plans to axe directly from Vodafone and those that will be lost from Rigney Dolphin which supplies employees to Vodafone.

The Union asked:

Q Why is Vodafone offshoring these jobs?

A Cost and Quality

Q Does Vodafone accept that customers currently receive an excellent customer service from employees in the area?

A Yes

Q What will happen to Rigney Dolphin employees who are loosing their jobs – will they be redeployed in Vodafone?

A No

Q What will be the terms of redundancy for Rigney Dolphin employees?

A This is noting to do with Vodafone. It is a matter for Rigney Dolphin.

Q Does Vodafone accept that they have a responsibility to Rigney Dolphin employees working in Vodafone?

A Vodafone only has a responsibility to the business contract between Rigney Dolphin and Vodafone.

Q The Union requests that Vodafone postpone this decision to enable all parties to engage in discussions with a view to finding alternatives that will save jobs

A No

Q Can Vodafone guarantee the Union that further work/jobs will not be outsourced?

A No

Q What are the cost savings involved in off shoring these jobs?

A Don’t know

This is the unacceptable face of globalisation. But it is not a new phenomena.

I’m sure readers can think of other businesses, for example, shipbuilding and breweries and shirt and clothes manufacturers and others which have over the years left this island and moved their base of production to other climes.

Those who support globalisation claim that this movement of capital and production benefits those poorer countries that can offer cheaper labour costs. But the facts suggest otherwise. The evidence thus far is of the income gap between the rich and poor countries widening in recent decades.

No state can grow economically without some measure of international investment. But every state has the right to ensure that such investment is responsible and that there are contractual agreements in place to ensure this.


James and Linda said...

Thanks for taking this on, Gerry. In my little corner of the world, I'm trying to get city leaders elected who'll stop giving huge tax breaks to the biggest, fattest corporations and shift support to local businesses. It's the same the world over--we're racing to the bottom, and that is just not sustainable.

Timothy Dougherty said...

Thanks Gerry , A great human interest story- I been thinking about my GrandFather coming to America after the Irish civil war, and finding work at the Ford Motor Company. in late 1922- He stayed and retired, spent his whole life working for Ford. As you say Gerry, it is about Loyality and that is incalculable in a persons life, this by a nation or multi-national companies. A working person is is part of the investment into a community, I would say more it is the heart of some communities. The self-minded multinationals, see not community but international investments. This is a real sad problem in our world today, and one very large outrage. My support to the local workers.