A complaints hotline for call centre staff attracts over four hundred calls every week, according to Britain's federation of unions, the Trades Union Congress. The revelation follows on the heels of the TUC report on call centres published last week [WAMN: 13-Feb-01].

The hotline, launched last year by the TUC, aims to redress the call centre industry’s alleged “sweatshop image”. The burgeoning sector, one of the fastest-growing in the UK, employs over 400,000 staff. Located mainly in areas of high unemployment, it is beset by high staff attrition rates.

Accuses TUC general secretary John Monks: "These figures show there are still too many centres using bullying tactics to pressurise and intimidate employees." The complaints, he said, suggested that some call centres were "openly flouting the law" but others, acknowledged Monks, were making efforts to ensure good conditions for their staff.

Many hotline complainants said they were not allowed adequate breaks between answering calls. One employee was allowed only three seconds and another was disciplined for allowing a six second gap between calls. Nearly one third of complaints came from South Wales (15%) and Scotland (14%) – areas with the highest concentration of call centres in the UK.

One of the worst abuses of staff was revealed by a caller last week who alleged that the centre manager made staff sign a ‘toilet book’ to check how long they spent in the lavatory. The person spending the most time was forced to wear a nappy [diaper].

Last year call centre staff at British Telecommunications took strike action in protest at working conditions. Their union and BT are currently working together to produce best practice guidelines.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)