Letter: Phone sweatshops

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The strikes at BT call centres over intolerable working conditions (report, 22 November) could well be the first of many in an industry cursed by some managerial shortcomings.

Most call centres were deliberately set up in areas of high unemployment, enabling management to use fear of the dole queue as the major tool to hold on to staff. However, as unemployment falls across the country, many of these companies will inevitably get egg on their face as their best staff walk out of the door and accept jobs where they are treated with respect.

In the future, the successful call centre will abandon the Victorian sweatshop approach and invest in training and technology that enables staff to provide valuable, intelligent advice. Given a flexible structure, visible career paths and opportunities to improve, their staff will not only gain job satisfaction, but will also help boost sales.

The companies that fail to do this will deservedly lose market share to those that view their staff as assets.


Group Communications Manager, Cedar Group plc

Cobham, Surrey