VIDEO: Leeds O2 employees demonstrate over job fears

O2 workers at the Arlington Business Centre have held a demonstration over fears for their jobs at the mobile phone giant’s Churwell base.

Workers have voiced concern for their jobs after the company announced plans to transfer their roles to outsourcing firm Capita.

O2 workers demonstrate outside the company's Arlington Business Centre premises.

O2 workers demonstrate outside the company's Arlington Business Centre premises.

One of those protesting against the changes was Mizan Muqit, an O2 employee and Communication Workers Union (CWU) representative from Morley.

He said: “People have got mortgages to pay. This could break up marriages. People are sick with worry. It’s the unknown. We’ve been given no assurances by the company whatsoever.”

However, O2 has tried to allay fears again today by explaining that the changes are a sign of the times.

An O2 spokeswoman said: “We’re getting a million fewer callers than we did a year ago. Now more people are going online to contact us. We’re not walking away from people on July 1 (when Capita take over). It’s in our interest to talk and listen.”

O2 has said that CEO Ronan Dunne and his team met with workers last week to discuss their concerns.

“Obviously people have the right to protest and we expect that. We’re still in talks and are committed to doing what we can to avoid industrial action.

“One thing we’d like to stress is that it’s a 10-year deal. We felt the deal with Capita was the best option for our people. We’re giving a two-year job guarantee.”

But the CWU are asking for a 10-year commitment which is the same length as the contract O2 has with Capita as well as set terms and conditions.

CWU representative and O2 employee Frances Burke, who also lives in Morley, said: “We feel betrayed. There’s a number of other Morley people who will be impacted it’s not just about me.”

O2 are reported to have a low-level turnover of staff as Mrs Burke described them as “good employers until now.”

She said: “My greatest fear is for the members and their mortgages. Many are under 30 and have young families. What’s going to happen in two years?”

One call centre worker Ben Corness, 28, of Elland Road, said he feared for his future and had been given just two weeks to decide on whether he takes voluntary redundancy,

Mr Corness, who has worked at O2’s Arlington Centre for nine years, said: “We feel undervalued and let down. It’s a big decision.”

He said he was anxious about leaving his job as he had no qualifications and had dedicated his career to O2, adding he felt “sceptical” about his future.

In a previously released statement O2 said: “Customers today want a broader and more flexible way of interacting with companies. Soaring Smartphone usage and mobile Internet has fundamentally changed what people expect from customer service.

“We’ve always been clear that we’ll ultimately need fewer people in the future to answer calls from customers. The extension of our partnership with Capita is the best outcome for our people. It means job security for two years for those people affected, something we alone as Telefonica UK could never offer.

“Long term, no business can predict how it will be organised, however Capita’s intention is to grow their business and as a result bring more work into our sites. As a proven and growing provider in customer contact management, Capita will offer opportunities for those staff to continue to grow their career in customer service.”

Recently CEO of O2 Ronan Dunne blogged about building trust, in it he wrote: “At O2, trust is built into our DNA – in fact it’s one of our four brand values.”

But the CWU has branded O2’s recent announcements as a “mistake” and a “betrayal of staff who have built the company.”

CWU will now ballot staff on Friday over whether or not to take industrial action.