British Call Centres ‘Exploit Staff’, Unions Accuse

13 February 2001

A report published yesterday by Britain's Trades Union Congress claims that the average UK call centre worker earns nearly 40% less than the national average.

It observes that majority of call centres are sited in areas where ‘old’ industry has declined, resulting in high levels of unemployment and low pay rates. Call centres have burgeoned over the past several years, matching the boom in direct marketing and sales; the sector now employs over 400,000 – more than the combined workforces of the steel, auto and coal industries.

According to the TUC, the average call handler earns £12,850 annually, compared with the national average of £21,800. But in unemployment blackspots – certain regions of Wales and Yorkshire, for example – pay averages plummet to £11,100 and £11,450 respectively. Untrained staff are recruited for as little as £7,500; conversely, in areas where there is labour competition, starting salaries can be as high as £20,000.

The TUC is encouraging call centre workers to report poor working practices – such as excessive monitoring and relentless targets. Its campaign tallies with the launch by British Telecom of best practice guidelines for call centres, developed in consultation with the Communication Workers Union.

Says TUC general secretary John Monks: “There are still too many call centres exploiting their staff. That’s why we are running this campaign – to make sure call handlers know their rights and to raise the status of call centres by encouraging shoddy employers to improve their standards.”

News source: The Times (London)