Category Archives: American Worker

Global Trends & Struggle in Call Centers

I’m reading this interesting piece put out in the latest Gurgaon Workers Newsletter (which, by the way, puts out some really good writing and analysis with a focus on workers’ self-activity and from-below struggle). I’ve copied below a section they wrote on developing trends among call centers globally. It’s worth reading for what it raises about the changing contours of the economic crisis and aspects of the recomposition happening among the global working class.

[Read the rest of the Newsletter here.]

According to Plan – General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies

*** Shifts in the Call Centre Industry: Gurgaon Tata Workers’ Report and Global Re-Locations ***

Call centres can be seen as ‘the industry of globalisation’. The came up in the 1990s as a product of Taylorisation of office work: information technology enabled to undermine the ‘individual skills’ of accountants, bank and other office workers. Contrary to what a lot of lefty ideologist thought the technological restructuring lead to a massification and concentration of work-force. By the end of the 1990s call centres went global, jumped the English speaking global wage scales from the global north to south. The patriotic populism of most of the trade unions proved helpless facing global relocations. India became the global back-office and call centre. Call centres combined ‘excess capital’ (finance, dubious personal services etc.) with an excess educated working class (students, graduates etc.). Unemployed post-graduates in Tunisia phoned for French Telecom, their Indian work-mates did the same for British Telecom. With the crisis one of the main pillars of call centre industry – the finance sector and personal services – came under pressure, so did wages in the global north. Currently we can witness rapid changes and shifts within global call centre work. In the following we give a sketchy overview on recent trends. Gurgaon is probably still the biggest call centre hub world-wide, so we are glad to document a short letter by a worker at Tata Consultancy Services based in Gurgaon.

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A “Happy Worker” is a Weak Worker

The call center I work at has a very highly organized management structure and philosophy that saturates all aspects of the center and our daily work experience. This is a first for me. All the other call centers I have worked at have generally been poorly organized, usually operations that are facing cutbacks & layoffs, which increases the friction between management and workers and makes it difficult for management to hide the fact that the pursuit of profit at the expense of workers is priority #1 for the company.

At the center I’m at now, management pushes this positive “team” philosophy where workers and managers are all part of one big happy family. They back it up with lots of “perks” to show just how much they appreciate the workers. I jokingly call it “call center socialism.” They wanna make it seem like free, unalienated labor but it’s still a fucking call center. Run by them.
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My Michael Scott Moment

I had a Michael Scott moment at work today. Well, the reverse of it at least.
(if you can get around the pop-up ads watch the first 1 min 20 sec of this & you’ll know what I’m talking about…)

I work in a call center doing customer service. I got a call this morning from a dude who had a question about a statement he received from the company I work for. It was a very straightforward call – dude thought he owed a balance, I explained he didn’t, it was all good. The call couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. This might sound weird but I know I’m good at customer service (it’s damn near the only kind of job I’ve had for the last 6 years) and I gave all the pleasantries and bullshit to make the dude feel good about his call. He was satisfied, I asked him if he needed anything else and he said no so I thanked him for calling.

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