Australia: Offshore call centre employees allegedly suffer racism, depression, & health problems but receive low wages

A recent media report raises a number of allegations concerning the use of offshore call centre operators, namely: (1) workers are often subjected to racism; (2) they experience work-related stress leading to clinical depression; (3) their health suffers due to interrupted sleep and unsanitary practice of sharing headphones, while some operators refuse toilet stops outside lunch breaks; and (4) offshore workers receive low wages. The companies mentioned in the report are Telstra, Dodo, and JP Morgan Chase & Co..

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Telstra, Dodo, and JP Morgan to respond. Telstra's response is linked below. Dodo and JP Morgan did not respond.

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Company response
15 January 2020

Telstra's response

Author: Andrew Penn, CEO, Telstra

 17 January 2020

It is important for us to attract and retain top talent in the markets we operate. So a priority for us is ensuring the compensation and benefits we provide our people are fair and competitive in each market. This includes providing a safe, inclusive and supportive work environment.

Employees at our Telstra contact centres in the Philippines have access to many of the same benefits as their colleagues in Australia. This includes access to our free and confidential employee assistance program for our team and their immediate family members, as well as flexible working arrangements (in addition to regular breaks during a shift) so that employees have some flexibility with their schedules to help with their work-life balance.

We also provide additional, country-specific support such as sleeping quarters and meals to keep our people safe in times of natural disasters like typhoons. And we have permanent onsite health/safety and medical staff available to assist with any health related matters.

Paid volunteer leave is standard in all locations we operate so our people can support their charity of choice, but in the Philippines we also allow time away from work to support the activities of the Telstra Foundation Philippines which has been operating for a number of years and aims to advance the education of the country's youth.

And when it comes to remuneration, we regularly participate in independent industry surveys to ensure we retain a competitive advantage and we're also accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) – the regulating body of the Information, Technology and Business Process Management industry.

Beyond these benefits we provide to Telstra employees, we work closely with our local partners to ensure the working conditions of their employees assigned to Telstra accounts meet the standards we expect.

Company non-response
1 January 2020

Dodo did not respond

Author: Dodo

Company non-response
1 January 2020

JP Morgan Chase & Co did not respond

Author: JP Morgan Chase & Co

Article
30 November 2019

Offshore call centre operators open up about what it's like working on the other side of the call

Author: Kelly Fuller, ABC News

"Offshore call centre operators open up about what it's like working on the other side of the call", 1 December 2019

Being sworn at, called a monkey, and diagnosed with clinical depression are just some of the realities of life as a call centre worker in the Philippines.

...Jake Concha spent 10 years as a call centre worker for several Australian companies including Telstra and Dodo and US firm JPMorgan Chase.

[...]

He said he has repeatedly experienced racism.

[...]

"I experienced clinical depression and, because of their work, a lot of my colleagues have been diagnosed with depression and psychological disorders...."

He said workers suffered interrupted sleep...and were also expected to share head phones, which led to the spread of colds and flus.

He said some work places refused toilet stops outside of lunch breaks.

"They have to keep it in for a long time and ... a lot of people get urinary tract infections, it really affects everyone's health."

[...]

Mr Concha said Australian companies using overseas call centres had a responsibility to care for their offshore staff.

"...[A] worker in the Philippines should be experiencing the same benefit since we're doing the same job..." he said.

[...]

"So if we have a minimum wage, particularly for Australians, that should also be experienced by Filipino workers who are doing the same job."

...[A] Telstra spokesman said..."A priority for us is ensuring the compensation and benefits we provide are fair and competitive in each market, including the Philippines," the spokesman said.

"We regularly participate in independent industry surveys to ensure we retain a competitive advantage and we're also accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, which is the regulating body of the information, technology, and business-process-management industry."

[...]

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