Unions are offering to work with - rather than against - UK companies that opt to send work offshore, after admitting that the trend is inevitable.
Speaking at an Outsourcing to India conference in London, Leslie Manasseh, deputy general secretary of union Connect and TUC general council member, warned that the choice for employees and unions is no longer between fatalism and opposition.
"Protection has a very powerful resonance within trade unions. This is hardly surprising. It's trade union members who are losing jobs," he said.
"Forecasts of 100,000 IT jobs going to India alone over the next five years are not good news for the people who currently occupy those jobs."
But Manasseh insisted that the time had come for unions to look at the issue from a global, rather than local, perspective.
"We are trying to shift the debate to a more positive and principled ground," he said. "It's about promoting a more equitable sharing of world trade and a more balanced relationship between the developed and the developing world."
Manasseh said assurances from representatives of the India High Commission about working conditions in Indian call centres had helped to further the offshore cause with his union.
"The way the whole issue is handled by employers from now on will determine how the debate within trade unions develops," he said.
Kiran Karnik, president of Nasscom, which represents India's software and IT services industry, welcomed the union's stance. "Unions have to be concerned about the jobs of their members, but it has to be in a larger perspective," he said.
Nigel Roxburgh, co-founder of supplier and customer body the National Outsourcing Association, told vnunet.com: "The TUC has to look after its members but it also has to look at the wider issues surrounding offshore outsourcing.
"If the UK focuses on capitalising on this trend, there's a chance we can gain far more than we lose."
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