BPO staff better treated in India

February 08, 2005

Call centre professionals in India are well taken care of by the employers, compared to the United States, where the workers were treated like a 'commodity,' said an official of Communication Workers of America, the largest workers' union in the US.

"The call centre environment in India is much better. In the US, the employers are not considerate about the workers. They treat people like a commodity," Steve Tirza, president, CWA, who was here along with other members to have a first-hand understanding of the call centre and IT industry in India, said.

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Taking exception to the argument that many jobs are outsourced to India for cost-cutting purposes, he said that even while doing this, the salaries of CEOs in US get 'fatter and fatter', negating the cost advantage.

"When companies cut the jobs by a third, the salaries and perks for CEOs keep on rising. So, where is the question of cost-cuts. The work for the existing employees keeps rising and the top executives get the hike," said Beverly A Hicks, administrative assistant, CWA.

The delegation from the US, which visited call centres and IT firms in cities such as Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, said the system in India was much better. "We are very impressed by the welfare measures for the workers here," she said.

However, the nature of the work in call centres, which is mostly in night-hours, will result in serious health problems.

In the US, about 8 per cent of the people in call centres report sick, per day, Hicks said.

The attrition rate in the call centre industry was in the region of 18-25 per cent, mainly due to the 'tough' working environment. For single mothers, the 'forced overtime' on the jobs made it even more difficult for them to manage the family and the work, said Hicks.

In India, the government should ensure that highly qualified people get better jobs, than remain in call centres (considered low-end) for the rest of their lives, she said.

"Here, you could see, a post-graduate or even a science graduate employed in a call centre doing data entry and other basic stuff. This reflects badly on the employment scenario," she said.

CWA, which has 700,000 men and women in both private and public sectors, including half a million workers in the IT sector, planned to work closely with the members of IT Professionals Forum (ITPF) in India, said Steve.