Walkouts have been taking place all day at Virgin Media’s Matrix Court call centre in Swansea following the company’s announcement this morning that the site is to close with the loss of more than 700 jobs.

Just over 500 of the affected staff are directly employed VM staff, but a further 220 work for SITEL having been outsourced to the subcontractor in recent years.

In an astonishingly disingenuous statement released to staff this morning, VM employees are being offered the opportunity to relocate with their jobs to either Wythenshawe in Manchester or India.

SITEL staff, meanwhile are being told they can move with their jobs to Bellshill in Glasgow.

Today’s developments are eerily reminiscent of VM’s betrayal of staff at its former call centre in Liverpool’s Albert Docks in 2011. At the time, those workers were told they could either move to what were then being billed as ‘safe jobs with a long term future’ in Swansea – or to India.

At that time, Matrix Court was being promoted as VM’s flagship ‘Centre of Excellence’ call centre operation – and a handful of staff did indeed relocate from the North West to Wales. Now they are being told they need to move back to the North West if they want to keep their jobs!

CWU assistant secretary John East said: “The scale of the anger amongst VM staff in Swansea has been dramatically demonstrated by the spectre of  spontaneous walkouts  – something that are rare indeed in the contact centre sector, especially in companies like VM who have been virulently anti-union for years.

“Clearly shell-shocked staff – especially, one assumes, the handful of individuals who did indeed relocate from  Liverpool to Swansea on the promise of ‘safe long-term jobs’ – have come to the conclusion that VM has been speaking with forked tongue.

“With the company now touting Wythenshawe as one of the sites it is now investing in for the long term, you have to wonder how long it will be before VM pulls the same trick as it did in Liverpool in 2011 and Swansea now.”

The CWU is today writing to members at Matrix Court in Swansea pledging all the support and advice the union can provide – even though union is specifically excluded from the formal consultation exercise as a result of the fact that VM doesn’t recognise trade unions.

“We’re already in the process of making contact with local MPs and members of the Welsh Government who we believe will be equally outraged by the loss of jobs in Swansea, the aim being to work with them in an effort to find alternative work for the vast majority of employees who won’t be willing or able to relocate to Wythenshawe, Bellshill or India,” concludes John East.

“VM’s actions today demonstrate once again that, when denied effective representation by a recognised trade union, workers are at the mercy of multinationals – like Liberty Global-owed VM – who treat employees as nothing more than pawns, moving work around at whim to wherever they can get it done cheapest.”