Strike in the call centers of british telecom

Employees on strike "for a better life".

London – Monday saw the first national strike at British Telecom (BT) in 13 years. Some of their employees went on a one-day strike – not for higher wages or shorter hours, but to protest repressive working conditions and management practices from the 19th century.Century. Tight work schedules and workplace preres were criticized. In short, it is the fight for the right to go to the bathroom.

A few years ago, I worked on a construction site for a while. One of the first lessons I learned there was that you should never sit down, under any circumstances. In the eyes of the foreman, it was a capital offense. The trick to being able to take a short break was to lean on a shovel and do something, such as "take a break".B. to have a few bricks in front of him to stare at blankly. Each job brings its own forms of prere and strain, and at the same time, in all job categories, ways have been found to catch one’s breath and organize one’s thoughts before moving on to the next task.

But that’s not the case for the employees of BT Call Centers, where cutting-edge hardware and surveillance software have given rise to a new form of industrial anti-utopia that could have come straight out of a steam-punk novel: the sweatshop (note: it’s not a sweatshop, it’s a sweatshop, it’s a sweatshop, it’s a sweatshop).In the 19th.exploitative, low-cost production companies that emerged in the twentieth century, originally mainly in the English-speaking world. textile industry), which has been ruffled up and adapted to a digital environment in order to function even more smoothly. Now it’s no longer just people monitoring and pacing the work, but computerized functions that continually record the time spent on a call and the time that elapses between calls – instant performance reviews. That’s enough to make anyone run to the bathroom immediately.

Or to call a strike when all other means fail. According to the Communications Workers Union, the strike was called after BT repeatedly failed to respond to workers’ complaints about stress, harassment from supervisors, unattainable targets and the widespread use of temp agencies. So on Monday, some 4,000 union members from 37 call centers across the UK went on a one-day strike over working conditions, after a large majority (81%) voted in favor of a series of one-day strikes in 150 of BT’s 151 call centers last week.

Quality, not quantity

The main concerns of the strikers are: the widespread employment of white-collar workers through temporary agencies over long periods of time, some for 10 years, with drastically reduced rights and fringe benefits (e.B. No sick pay, no vacation pay, no pensions, etc.); disciplinary measures against those who exceed the maximum allotted time of four minutes and forty seconds for a call (z.B. because it is a more complex customer request); too few employees and other draconian measures.

All in all, the picture that emerges does not seem to fit the self-perception of Western societies today, as sweatshops are seen as something to be swept under the rug of the past, just as slavery and child labor are. And yet, what appears to be an anachronism has returned in a booming industry. In the UK, it is the fastest growing sector, currently numbering over 400.000 employees. Well, that’s more employees than the total number of people working in coal, steel and car production, the former hotspots of labor struggle for a better life. In Europe there are currently 9700 call centers, and it is expected that this number will soon double and that in 2002 9 million people will be working in call centers worldwide, generating revenues of 7 billion USD.

So is this strike a reverberation of the past or a foretaste of things to come?? Will the 21. Century the 19. or even the 18. The US will be more like it by again denying workers the rights granted in this century of ours as it ends? At present, it seems symbolic that Monday’s strike was part of a cruder campaign "for a better life" is. It is possible that ies of quality, not quantity, will dominate the labor relations debate of the future. According to the union of communication workers, British Telecom now urgently wants to hold talks. Depending on the outcome of these negotiations, there will be a hearing on 10 October.December there will be another day of action – or not.

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