My life at work: we nod and smile while they scew us over

Submitted by Matthew on 29 April, 2010 - 3:02 Author: Dominic Warner

Dominic Warner works in a commercial call centre in north London.

Tell us a little bit about the work you do.

I do customer service work in a call-centre, for a company which buys gold. It mainly involves being abused and shouted at by dissatisfied customers, and dealing with prank calls from kids. About 70% of our time is spent sitting around waiting for calls to come in; it’s a great opportunity to catch up on some reading.

Do you and your workmates get the pay and conditions you deserve?

We’re paid just above the minimum wage, which is not great, but the main sticking point is hours. The boss will walk in at 11am and tell a handful of people to go home if it’s a slow day. Some of my colleagues have young kids to look after, we all have bills, and getting sent home early on can really mess up your week’s budget.

Has the economic crisis affected your work? Has it affected the way workers think about their jobs?

I work for one of the businesses which has benefited from the recession. Now the economy seems to be growing business has slowed; we’ve had our days cut and my supervisor has told me off the record to start looking for another job.

What do people talk about in your workplace? How easy is it to “talk politics on the job”?

My co-workers’ favourite topic is the nasty behaviour of management, but everyone holds very traditional, conservative views and when I suggested unionising, people looked at me like I was from Mars. Over the past few months they’ve been training staff from other parts of the call centre to do our job; so if push came to shove and somehow we did manage to strike, management already has a large pool of scab labour coming in every morning.

Do you enjoy your work?

I can’t say I enjoy the work — getting abused over the phone would wear anyone down — but compared to some of the other jobs out there it’s a cakewalk.

What are your bosses like?

The bosses aren’t particularly impressive. The top boss is a bit of an oddball, he aims to instill a culture of fear in his employees but he can’t pull it off, and as a result is a bit of a laughing stock. The supervisors are friendly and act interested in you, but it’s pretty clear they only build up a relationship to make their job easier — we’re supposed to nod and smile while they screw us over.

If you could change one thing about your workplace, what would it be?

There’s no union, so getting one would be a good start!

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