HP staff working in IT support at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have today begun industrial action in response to plans to offshore 200 jobs to India.

HP, which provides the core computer systems for pensions and benefit payments to the DWP’s customers, the job vacancies and job searches system, Labour Market Systems and the operational support for a range of applications, plans to move jobs from Newcastle, Lytham and Sheffield to Bangalore in India.

The government has said that it would not send any DWP jobs abroad, but it was not clear if these included those with subcontractor HP.

HP staff who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union voted almost unanimously last week to work to rule - under which people do the minimum required by work rules - and refuse to co-operate with the process of exporting the work, which is due to take place this month.

The offshoring plans need to be signed off by the government before any jobs can be exported.

PCS has around 170 members working for HP at the DWP, and claimed that it was the first time the government has proposed to send live records of UK citizens overseas. It also questioned the economic benefits of offshoring the jobs, and is commissioning research into the plans.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is a key test of ministers' rhetoric on the economy. They can't simultaneously demand cuts from private contractors and put their faith in them to create jobs.

"The government should put a stop to this plan to ensure that no jobs are lost and the security of millions of people's personal records is not put at risk."

Meanwhile, HP said that its comments on the situation from last week, remained the same: “We have begun consultation on the proposed transfer of some roles to our operations in India effective in 2012, subject to final client approval. This relates to work at a small number of sites in the UK. We are working to redeploy staff affected into other roles within HP and are optimistic that we can avoid compulsory redundancies.

"HP complies with all regulations regarding data and privacy and will only make changes to the way an account is run with the customer's full approval. We do not expect to start knowledge transfer activities until we have final client [DWP] approval,” the company said.