PA quells fears over data jobs in India

By Dominic Ponsford

Plans for the Press Association to “offshore” some of its data
processing work to Bangalore in India have raised alarm bells with the
NUJ.

It fears the move could lead to cutbacks in PA’s UK operations and
be the precursor to more editorial-based roles being transferred
overseas. But PA has said that the move will not have any effect on
editorial jobs.

Some 25 staff are to be based at Bangalore
initially and they will deal with data processing for PA’s UK sport
information and TV listings services.

The centre will also process information sourced and sold locally as part of PA’s expanding Asia operations.

According
to PA, its operations centre in Howden, Yorkshire, which was completed
two years ago, now employs more than 650 staff and is operating at full
capacity.

In a memo to staff, PA editor-in-chief Paul Potts said:
“By utilising the extra capacity provided by the new centre, we will be
able to more effectively support the growth of business both within the
UK and overseas.

“Plans are in hand for the reorganisation of our
current data processing tasks. However, I would stress that we do not
envisage any redundancies as a result of this. In fact, I would expect
the changes to increase the opportunities for staff throughout the
group.”

The NUJ is concerned that the new Indian centre could
“hit jobs and future employment opportunities at the company’s
operations centre in Howden”.

In a statement the union said: “We
are concerned that PA is planning to follow the lead of Reuters, which
moved its core financial data business to the sub-continent and axed
thousands of jobs.”

The NUJ has written to Potts asking him a
number of questions including: “Will the off-shoring philosophy be
extended to operations other than data processing, such as copy-taking?
Will PA journalists find themselves phoning over copy to people
thousands of miles away who don’t have local knowledge and other basic
skills?”

● The Press Association has announced profits up five per cent to £5.9m on turnover of £69.7 million for 2004.

It
is proposing a trading dividend of £3m to be paid to its 27
shareholders which include most of the national and regional newspaper
publishers.

The annual report revealed pay for the highest-paid
director (believed to be chief executive Paul Potts) of £402,000 (which
included £39,000 towards a pension scheme). This compared with £418,000
in 2003 when the pay packet also included a performance-related bonus
of £55,000.

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