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Monday, December 29, 2003

Anti-outsourcing carols!
Prasun Sonwalkar

PROTESTS over the export of British jobs to India took a unique form ó Christmas carols.

Britain plunged into the holiday season a few days ago but not everyone was looking forward to the Christmas spirit.

In the busy financial district, trade union representatives dressed up as Santa, clutched plastic cups of mulled wine and sang a choir.

But it was a choir with a cause. The representatives were sounding alarm sirens, not jingle festive bells.

Flanked by a banner and egged on by press photographers, the singers had been protesting against outsourcing of British jobs. Passers-by smiled but very few slowed down to offer support.

Latest figures showed companies such as Aviva, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and the National Rail Enquiry service have moved more than 50,000 jobs to India alone over the past two years. Trade unions believed more jobs are likely to go.

Representatives of trade union Amicus sang a version of the traditional carol:

Norwich Union staff looked out,

On their Christmas vacation,

What did the New Year hold for them?

Office relocation,

Brightly shone the Far East star,

And the UK looked cruel,

What for dinner this Noel?

Bowls of Christmas gruel.

"We are bracing ourselves for next year," Amicus spokesman Lee Whitehill said over the sounds of Good King Wenceslas.

"We are getting indications" that there will be more announcements, he told the BBC.

Amicus said its research had shown 2,00,000 jobs would be lost by 2008 as part of an "exodus" of two million jobs from Western economies to India.

Norwich Union worker Eileen Woods believed that general indifference towards outsourcing to India was because its implications were not properly understood.

"These are jobs that wonít be there for our children, our grandchildren," the 48-year-old mother of two told IANS during a break in the singing.In her role as one of Norwich Unionís union representatives, Woods has interacted with employees who have or are set to lose their jobs.

She said while many were offered other work within the company, it might mean having to relocate to new cities.

"And in areas which are especially hard hit like Norwich, there really isnít a lot else on offer," she said.