Tell Shell - IT workers are worth more than roughnecks

Shell recently announced plans to offshore 3,000 jobs of its IT jobs, before announcing British record profits last week.

The trade unions were up in arms because redundancy packages offered to IT staff - £50,000 – were dwarfed in comparison to the £200,000 offered to Shell’s offshore oil rig workers (and then dwarfed further when they examined the profits). Trade union Amicus has threatened to take legal action on behalf of the IT workers.

Well, for a start it’s an interesting sign of the times that the trade unions are no longer up in arms about the actual offshoring of jobs, but instead on the severance deal members are getting. The unions have now realised that offshoring is becoming more of an inevitable corporate response to the need to streamline costs and a consequence of globalisation.

What is of interest is how Shell seems to treat its IT workers, in comparison to their oil rig workers. Shaving 75 percent off their redundancy package looks like a fiscal kick in the teeth. And it’s not just a monetary issue. This action could undermine the importance of IT’s role within the company.

Shell would also be wise to remember that it hasn’t offshored all IT jobs – the company is bound to retain an element of its IT personnel in the UK. How will the remaining staff be feeling? Not only will they feel undervalued, they could also feel a sense of uncertainty towards their future with Shell. Morale will be low.

As in any crisis containment scenario, companies have to think through every eventuality before they embark on something as controversial as offshoring and prepare thoroughly. From negotiating with the unions from the start, to developing watertight HR and PR procedures, organisations need to get it right. It doesn’t help when the company goes and announces British record profits weeks after.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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