herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

What TalkTalk is saying is we don't give a damn about any of our workers

WE don't give a damn about you. That's the message TalkTalk is sending out by getting rid of almost 600 of its employees in Waterford, treating them with such contempt that many only found out when they logged on to Facebook.

It's also a wake-up call to anyone who works for a multinational -- showing that in today's dog-eat-dog globalised world, everything can be snatched away from you in the twinkling of an eye.

Joseph Stalin once said that while one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is just a statistic.

In the same way, figures alone cannot convey the emotional cost of Ireland's growing unemployment crisis.



tears

The TalkTalk scandal has at least put a human face on the issue, allowing us to see the devastation caused by the heartless decision made by a well-paid executive in a far-off land.

Over the last 48 hours, the news bulletins have been dominated by ex-workers struggling to hold back the tears.

They have spoken about their deepest fears of not being able to feed their children or keep a roof over their heads.

Two members of the sales team are planning to get married next August and may have to slash their guest lists.

TalkTalk may be a big, faceless corporation, but its Irish staff claim that they regard their colleagues as one big family.

When they receive their P45s at the end of the month, they will be losing far more than just a pay packet.

They will be losing friends, self-respect and a reason to get up in the morning -- with far-reaching social consequences that can only be imagined.

Of course, there is no nice way to let someone go.

Even so, TalkTalk's attitude to the people who worked so hard for them has been absolutely disgusting. After giving staff just 30 days notice, the company is now battling to give them the bare minimum in severance pay -- while still suggesting that they pop over to England and celebrate the firm's 10-year anniversary with a giant party.

Although enterprise minister Richard Bruton has made plenty of sympathetic noises, the reality is that there is precious little he can do.

The government can set up all the task forces it wants, but it cannot actually create jobs out of thin air. Ministers have been reduced to promising that they will fast-track a university for the south-east, which is not a lot of use to people who are scared they may not be able to afford Christmas dinner.

Behind all the jargon, TalkTalk are quitting Waterford for one simple reason.

They believe they can provide exactly the same service from the Philippines and India, where call-centre agents earn less than €2,400 a year.

That's a pay gap of almost €80 a day per worker, which means there is no way Ireland can even begin to compete.

In a globalised capitalist system, Ireland must do more to build up its indigenous industries and keep its cost base down. We could all do our bit by spending more money on Irish-produced goods in the shops.



heartache

Sadly, none of this is much consolation to the 575 TalkTalk workers who are facing a highly uncertain future.

Waterford may already be an unemployment black spot with over 17pc of its people out of work, but the rest of the country is hardly much better.

Many of our most talented young people are already booking flights to the US or Australia, creating another brain drain and even more heartache for the families involved.

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