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Villiers plays Pontius Pilate as 200 jobs are axed

20 April 2011

Rail minister Theresa Villers has been accused of "playing Pontius Pilate" as nearly 200 call centre jobs are about to be axed in Newcastle.

TSSA union leader Gerry Doherty accused her of washing her hands of the fate of 184 staff who will lose their jobs if last ditch talks fail today.

The Minister has refused to intervene to stop East Coast taking the work from the National Express call centre and giving it to a firm which plans to send over half the jobs overseas to India and the rest to centres in the Midlands and the South West.

"She has decided to play the role of Pontius Pilate and simply wash her hands when nearly 200 jobs are going in the North East," the union general secretary said.

"Unemployment on Tyneside is already above the national average but she seems quite happy to see these jobs go to Mumbai where wages are much lower."

The National Express call centre at Baron House, which handles passenger bookings for East Coast main line, will lose all its work to a rival firm, Intelenet.

Union officials will meet managers from National Express Services in Doncaster today to discuss the job losses and redundancy terms.

But Mr Doherty said it was not too late for the Minister to come up with a solution to keep the jobs on Tyneside.

"The Government subsidises the private rail induistry to the tune of £5 billion a year. It sets fares, timetables, franchises, even the length of the trains.

"Surely, it can broker a deal between National Express, which still holds two subsidised franchises, and East Coast, which it now actually owns, to keep these jobs where they belong, in Newcastle".

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