Call centre work - "like a never ending interview"

A lot has been said about call centres re-locating to India even though the most recent government statistics show that there are now around 375,000 such jobs in the UK. Clearly, call centre jobs are being created as quickly as they are disappearing, for the time being anyway. Therefore it's timely to draw attention to an article about the working lives of a sizeable core of workers in an article entitled Battery operated by Vicky Frost of The Guardian. It's also an article that may be of interest to the growing number of call centre bloggers.

The main aim of the article appears to be in suggesting that despite widespread renaming of call centres as "contact centres", they remain tough places to work. The main feature of call centre work continues to be low pay, strict time keeping, intense monitoring of employees, stressful work, low-trust from management, boring and repitive work, strict target call times, high labour turnover and demoralised staff. It appears to be no coincidence that call centre styles of employment and work organziation took off at a time when organized labour was on the run from hostile governments and intense lobbying from business affiliations. In effect, despite a wide acceptance that call centre work is generally demeaning and some evidence of union activity in the call centre sector, there appears little collective will in the direction of employers to put the stops on a clear example of a viscous circle. Overall, the call centre sector is an obvious example of what is often termed as the "race to the bottom-line" approach to managing the employment relationship.

What caught my eye from the article is a part of being monitored so intensely is that the pressure to perform and remain appealing to the employer is constant - the analogy given is of a never ending job interview. People who who have the opportunity to earn large amounts of money or command a high degree of job autonomy may accept such an approach, but is it really fair to expect extraordinary levels of output and such low levels of personal space for a pittance of a wage? Well, British call centre employers clearly appear to think that it is reasonable and worringly it's increasingly being seen as the norm.

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