The John Lewis Partnership has announced a new partnership with Indian tech giant Wipro that will see Wipro providing infrastructure services to the British retailer to help it expand its digital presence while also supporting its future business strategy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the deal, Wipro will deliver tech infrastructure services including cloud hosting, end user compute, networks, and an internal help desk to serve the retailer's 80,000 staff members.
John Lewis said outsourcing the management of its IT infrastructure to Indian firm will ensure that it will "always have access to up-to-date technologies and specialist expertise".
"Consumer behaviour is changing and in a post-Covid-19 world we need to be more agile, adapting more quickly to change," said Mike Sackman, Chief Information Officer at the John Lewis Partnership.
"Wipro will support us in the delivery of that ambition, ensuring that we always have access to up-to-date technologies and specialist expertise."
As part of the deal, John Lewis will transfer 244 of its non-customer facing staff to Wipro in November. These transfers will be made under the 'Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment' regulations (TUPE), a measure that preserves employees' terms and conditions.
The staff being outsourced will continue to work closely with the John Lewis Partnership in their new roles. It is understood that they will be entitled to the same salary and continuous service terms, but they will no longer have access to privileges like partnership discounts and fuel cards.
Many of these staff, who were told about their new roles via video conferencing call earlier this week, are now concerned about their future in the company.
"This has been on the cards for a while but comes at a very uncertain time. Wipro have promised to keep our jobs for 12 months but what happens after that?" one employee told the Evening Standard.
The Partnership's outsourcing decision comes a day after chairwoman Sharon White wrote a letter to 80,000 partners, informing them that the company is unlikely to reopen "all our John Lewis stores" in near future, potentially resulting in hundreds of job losses.
The shops likely to close were not named but some media reports claimed that those being considered for closure include Newbury, Watford and Newcastle.
White noted that the John Lewis' online sales, which were 40 per cent prior to the pandemic, had shifted to 100 per cent at the peak of the crisis.
She added that the company needs to change its business strategy by resizing the partnership to reflect customers' further shifts online.
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