Outreach to companies on COVID-19 regarding the protection of call centre workers in Tunisia & Morocco
Both the Tunisian and Moroccan Governments instituted lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, prohibiting all but essential services. Despite this, many call centres continued to operate, with some moving to remote work and others being granted authorisation to maintain physical operations as an “essential service”. Almost immediately, workers began expressing concern that continuing to work in crowded offices, without adequate health and safety protections or social distancing measures, put them at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, many call centre workers rely on target-based bonuses to make up their salary, meaning those unable to work due to illness or quarantine, risk losing out on a substantial portion of their income.
In May 2020, we approached ten call centre companies and six identified international clients who outsource their customer relationship management to call centres in both countries. We asked companies specific questions on the steps they were taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, assist workers who become infected, and ensure workers do not suffer disproportionate economic hardship. The full set of questions we asked can be accessed here. We received five responses from call centre companies and four from clients. The responses we received show that many companies took important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, our research also indicates that call centres and international clients with leverage over call centres, need to take action to improve working conditions, including systemic issues around pay and work-induced stress, as well as the risk of disproportionate harm to their workers as a result of the pandemic.