It is pretty bad form when you find you are being made redundant through Facebook, but it seems that is what happened to workers at UK telecommunications company Talk Talk's branch in Waterford. The company is simply upping sticks and taking its call centre operation to Asia, where people can afford to work for as little as €2,400 per annum. Without warning.
No doubt Ibec will have words of non-wisdom to say on issues of "competitiveness", wage costs and all the rest. The fact however, is that we in western Europe cannot compete with such salaries, as our cost of living is much higher. I can't imagine much demand for €500,000 houses in Delhi, for instance. I certainly didn't see much evidence of such during the two occasions I visited, anyway.
Talk Talk also cited Eurozone fluctuations - but such things are transient, and other companies that do not work through Sterling still manage to operate here. And are the Indian Rupee or the Philippine Peso tied to Sterling?
So really, you have to look at Ireland's over-dependent strategy of basing employment on the multinationals... It might have worked in the past, thanks to the fact that we are mother-tongue English speakers and the avoidance opportunities offered by Ireland's corporate tax laws, but it is something other countries can do now - for far cheaper.
It is not multinationals alone, however. "Outsourcing" is a buzzword these days, and indigenous Irish companies indulge too. In Britain, even those in jobs they might have considered immune to such a practice - journalism, for example - have been hit. Reuters outsourced parts of its operation to Singapore in 2004, and the Daily Mirror did the same in 2006.
Indeed, if you think about it, it is hard to imagine any job which does not require a physical presence at the point of sale that could not, theoretically, be outsourced.
And where does that leave us all? Companies end up cutting into their own domestic markets because we are all on the dole, our jobs having gone east. Maybe companies that readily outsource might not notice the disappearance of their Irish markets, but they would if the same were to happen in the larger EU economies.
Countries like India widely use forms of protectionism, in the form of tariffs, to develop their own economies. Perhaps it is time that we in Europe did the same for multinational companies operating within the EU, at least in the form of an obligatory code of conduct?
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