IT services giant CSC is planning a further 640 UK redundancies, says the union Unite.
This brings the total number of job losses announced at the company to 1,100 since the beginning of February.
Unite national officer Kevin O'Gallagher told Computing that he had been informed that the redundancies were designed to increase profitability.
"Following several weeks of consultation over a reduction of staff working on the NHS Lorenzo contract, this further announcement comes totally out of the blue," he said. "It has dealt our members a severe body blow and left them absolutely devastated."
He added that he was stunned that CSC had made the announcement at the beginning of a meeting to discuss the existing redundancy programme.
"The company confused the matter by declaring an intent to make a further 640 redundancies across the business – many in areas where redeployed staff will be sent," he said.
CSC's previous announcement of job losses triggered a lunchtime protest yesterday by Unite's CSC members, which O'Gallagher claimed saw a good turnout.
CSC has confirmed the new programme of job losses. It told Computing: "We can confirm that we have started a formal 90-day consultation process in the UK, which could reduce the number of people working in our UK business by an anticipated number of 640 people.
"This action is necessary because the IT services market is changing, and our customers want competitive, new services with different contract and delivery models."
Unite's O'Gallagher said that he was disappointed to learn that the job cuts would be solely within the UK, with no redundancies among CSC's offshore NHS Programme workers.
O'Gallagher said he believed that a "400-500 strong" CSC workforce was engaged solely on NHS work in India, and that their job security had been guaranteed by the company.
CSC did not deny that claim, but said: "Our India-based product development organisation has faced reductions, which were mainly achieved through attrition, but also has a much wider portfolio than National Programme [NHS] work.
"CSC operates a global delivery model in line with industry practices today, with a strong team of more than 23,000 employees working in India across its development and delivery centres in seven locations."
The company added that it remains "fully committed" to the UK market. "We are confident that these carefully targeted and managed reductions will not impact the overall quality of service we provide to our customers," it said.
CSC said that it hoped that voluntary redundancies and redeployment would mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies. "Where this is not possible, we will provide support to help ensure that anyone leaving the business does so in the best possible position.
"Our employees will naturally be concerned during this period of uncertainty, which is why we have initiated employee briefings to help them through this difficult situation."
Unite's O'Gallagher dismissed the company's comments. He said: "We have put forward a detailed plan, which will avoid any compulsory redundancies in the company. However, these plans have not been taken up and CSC is insistent on issuing compulsory redundancy notices, despite receiving sufficient number of volunteer requests to leave the company."
News of the latest cuts came as Martyn Hart, chairman of outsourcing trade body the National Outsourcing Association (NOA), supported CSC's redundancy programme – and appeared to suggest that compulsory layoffs were in CSC's best interests.
Hart said: "The people volunteering for redundancies are most likely the ones who could quickly walk into a lucrative job elsewhere.
"CSC simply cannot afford to lose all of its best talent as it goes through this transitional phase. Although so closely associated with the public sector, CSC is a private company which, in the face of adversity, should be able to choose how to reorganise its workforce as it sees fit."
Hart did not specify what he meant by the "adversity" facing CSC. The company's recent statements about its NHS work have painted a rosy picture of engagement with the NHS as it undergoes the government's latest reform programme. However, negotiations over the Lorenzo contract remain stalled, and its critics within government – such as Richard Bacon, MP – are as outspoken as ever (as Computing reported yesterday).
O'Gallagher told Computing he was "shocked" by Hart's comments.
He added: "CSC workers are disgusted at the NOA's backing of CSC's redundancy plans. The position it has taken is clearly misinformed. The NOA has taken no consideration of the fact that the union plans to allow for voluntary redundancy rather than compulsory redundancies.
"It did not take into account that, from day one of the consultation, CSC has said that all its workers in India have had their jobs guaranteed, regardless of expertise or level of skill.
"With the full support of our membership, Unite is determined to avoid any compulsory redundancies, which are clearly unnecessary and in the main designed to enhance the profits of its American shareholders.
"We now owe it to our members to do everything in our power to support them during this very uncertain time and fight these job cuts."
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