Hell’s bells: call centre and workers in global movement

Information and interviews on call centre work and struggles in Romania and India from January 2010.

Submitted by Steven. on February 9, 2010

It seems that with the crisis a last push of global re-location of call centre and IT related services take place. IBM announces to cut thousands of jobs in the global north while adding 5,000 jobs to its India centres. Though the interview with Convergys workers reveals that the call centre Mekka Gurgaon is not left untouched by the slump either.

Struggle at Wipro in Romania

Romania and India are not only assembly locations for the global car Renault Logan, they are also IT outsourcing destinations. Since the onset of the crisis the re-location of IT services seemed to have taken up speed again. In January 2010 IBM announced that it create 5,000 new jobs in India while cutting jobs in Europe and the US. The company currently operates in a number of Indian cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad and Gurgaon.
In Timisoara, Romania, the French telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent announced in November 2009 that one third of the work-force will be outsourced to Wipro in early 2010. The workers then formed union to defend their rights. On 10th of November 2009 a joint-action of Alcatel workers in France, Germany, Italy and Romania took place against job cuts. In September 2009 Wipro had closed an IT research and development-centre in Sophia Antipolis, France. About 60 engineers got the sack. Wipro, Convergys (see interview), IBM and Genpact are the main call centre and BPO employers in Gurgaon.
Blog of the Wipro/Alcatel union in Romania
Article on Wipro job cuts in France

Interview with Convergys Call Centre Workers in Late Summer 2009

Short chai chat with workers employed by Convergys, talking about impacts of work and crisis on life and physique.

Workers: Since this recession has started, companies are not offering more than Rs. 16.000 – 17.000. Before this, they were offering Rs 20.000 plus. And apart from this they are making people to work for some more time.
If 50 companies were hiring, now only 10 or 15 companies are hiring. American Express, for example, chucked out a large sum of employees and they hired new batch, but they are paying very less to them. Even we have seen, in our company also there are a process of lay offs. Recently 50 people have been asked to leave because of the recession. They were getting very good salary. They weren’t the new people, but still they were asked to leave. The situation is not as bad as compared to US or England, it is not so bad in India. At least the people are able to manage – able to survive. And I think, as the recession is getting over very soon – another 5-6 months, things will definitely change.
Question: Do you sometimes, in call centres here, you sell credit schemes or you have to do bank account work for US citizens? Do you realise that actually these people are in higher debts now or they have difficulties to pay their bills or they … Do you see some connection with the American people? Not as clients but as people? Workers:
In both contexts we can feel the heat, because before this, around 2-3 months, our client was offering very high incentives. But till now the situation has changed. Previously it was easy to sell. Now people are not ready to shell any money. They are saying, “No, I am very good. We don’t want to shell any money.” So the sale has gone down. People are feeling the heat, companies are asking to make more sale, people are not ready to buy, so we are not able to earn, so everyone is suffering.

And what about your job, do you sometimes think: “Why did I bother to study? Everyone can do it”, “I am a machine”, “I’m an answering machine”.
If we gave the same script to an uneducated person, and he learn that by heart – he could do the job. He’ll be able to do the same work that we are doing because we are so repetitive. So it is monotonous. That’s why 90% of the people are unsatisfied. Nobody wants to work in the night shift. People do feel burn out at times. Still but even if you are working with a call centre, certainly you have no better options. That’s for sure.

Does it have a physical effect on you? So what for example? If it is not too private for you.
I lost my hair. Hair loss is one of the most common thing you can see. Symptoms you know of not getting proper sleep. Maybe losing on your weight as well sometimes. These are the basic things maybe. Hair loss is one of the major things you see and also these dark circles, these puffy eyes and all the things you can very easily correlate with call centers. Until I get another better job, I have to work. I have to do that regardless of whether I am losing my youth. I have to make money.