Transportation Authority Gives up French Contract for Call Center in Morocco

Jean-Paul Huchon, Socialist President of the Region Île-de-France
Photo: Flickr.com/s.letur

The Ile-de-France region has decided to move its call center offshore, or across the Mediterranean: to Morocco.

The controversy of outsourcing is one the government would have liked to avoid. Although social reforms are increasing, unemployment is at its highest level since 1999. In this time of economic crisis, STIF (transport authority for the region Île-de-France) has decided to use the new provider for its call center beginning in 2013. Unlike the French company who formerly held the contract with STIF, the new one has its call center located in Morocco. The name of the company remains confidential.

For Jean-Paul Huchon, Socialist President of the Region Île-de-France, “STIF had no other choice but to give the job to a company whose center of activity is in Morocco, who bid lower than their competitor whose management center is located on French soil. ” The issue of cost seems to have been favored without raising the question of continued employment in France itself. However, the company cannot avoid the fact that an hour of work in the call center costs 28 euros in France and only 14 euros in Morocco.

Webhelp, the company that previously held the contract, has worked with STIF since 2006. They announced Friday that they will bring the decision of STIF to court under claims of legal irregularities. According to his co-president Frederic Jousset, Huchon could use Clause 59 of the public market code in order to revisit the decision in the name of public interest. The code is enforced out by an administration that is responsible for choosing businesses with the best service, including the consideration of price.

Arnaud Montebourg, who announced last week that the fight against outsourcing call centers was a priority, urged Huchon to “reconsider his decision by re-opening the bid for business.” He also announced a reflection on an evolution of the rules concerning the assignment of public contracts.

François Hollande expressed himself in a more measured way. He urged public officials to be “very attentive” to the issue of employment, although he acknowledged that the existing rules regarding the assignment of contracts were followed in this case.

Huchon said he “will explore all legal ways of addressing this situation”, while asserting that STIF had respected all legal codes. If Webhelp seems to be a victim of cost killing, its website says that it also has sites in Morocco, Algeria, and Romania.

This controversy could allow the opposition to regain control of the national conversation. The left is being “caught in a contradiction,” said Valérie Pécresse, former Budget Minister and UMP leader in the region. Adding that the UMP was opposed to the choice of provider, she asked to revisit “the possibilities offered by the procedure of the public markets and of social criteria sufficiently precise to focus on jobs located on our soil.”

Trying to find a compromise between politics and the difficult rules of business awaits Huchon and his socialist majority.

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