Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 24: ‘Across the Great Divide’: Local and Global Trade Union Responses to Call Centre Offshoring to India

Phil Taylor and Peter Bain


Phil Taylor and Peter Bain Introduction The last decade has seen a massive expansion in the offshoring of business services from the so-called developed nations of the global North to low-cost, developing countries of the global South, with such offshoring facilitated by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Despite the increasing importance of diverse back-office processes within these migratory flows, the principal focus has been the much-publicised relocation of call centre services from English-speaking countries to India. There is no denying India’s significance in the emerging global market for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and in contributing to a new international division of service labour. Consultant reports (for example, Nasscom-McKinsey, 2005) suggest that India accounts for almost half of all offshored BPO. Further, the industry body Nasscom – National Association of Software and Service Companies – (2007, p. 63) calculated that India employed 545 000 in BPO by early 2007, with more than 50 per cent engaged on voice services. The impact on the UK is evidenced by the fact that in 2006 an estimated 40 000 agents ‘faced’ UK customers (Taylor and Bain, 2006a, p. 24). It is necessary to acknowledge the transformative role played by TNCs in extending the reach of capital accumulation and in reconfiguring service delivery chains. The formation of Indian BPO is associated with the decisions taken in the mid-1990s by US corporations GE Capital and American Express to situate back-office (and, later, ‘voice’) facilities in India (Taylor and Bain, 2003). Of the 26 000 employed...

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