250 staff at Barclaycard’s Crawley offices in south London are up in arms because their jobs are to be outsourced. But not, for once, to the renowned global outposts of Bangalore, Beijing or Brazil. No, these jobs are going much further than that – all the way round the M25 to Milton Keynes, in fact.
It’s a story that irresistibly calls to mind the closing episode of The Office, when the internal wrangle between Wernham Hogg’s Slough and Swindon offices is finally resolved in Swindon’s favour, and David Brent is offered the top job. ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,’ announces anti-boss Brent. ‘The good news is that I’ve been promoted. The bad news is that you’re all going to lose your jobs.’
Of course we’re not suggesting that Barclaycard’s managers are anything like the appalling Brent, but in these days of global job mobility there is something charmingly parochial about a row over a shift of less than 95 miles.
In sitcom-land, the last laugh is on Brent, who fails a medical and is thus left facing the chop with the rest of his Slough-based colleagues. But real life rarely delivers such poetic justice. The jobs – handling customer calls for the Sky credit card – are to be taken over by outsourcing outfit Tsys. Unions representing the Barclaycard staff urged the firm to find them alternative local employment, saying that the workers would otherwise have a tough time finding other work in the area.
Does this mean that Milton Keynes is set to become the new hub of onshore outsourcing? The head of giant Indian outsourcer Infosys, S. Gopalakrishnan, certainly believes business will slow down on the sub-continent this year. But he seems to be more worried by the state of the US economy than by any putative threat from the Buckinghamshire new town – despite its many benefits, including modern civic amenities, ample town centre parking and good transport links.
There is one aspect of life in MK that Gopalakrishnan would recognise however. The traffic can be murder, especially on the infamously be-roundabouted ring road. Perhaps Crawley would be a better bet, after all.