Call centres push up pay rates in drive to lure recruits

Pay for call centre recruits is rising at double the rate that their established work colleagues command, a study released today shows.

Entry pay levels for call centre trainees have jumped 7.7 per cent over the past year, compared with a typical 3 per cent basic pay deal, according to Industrial Relations Services.

The research, which was based on 350 call centres with 112,000 staff, will be seen as fresh evidence that call centre companies are facing recruitment difficulties.

David Carr, editor of the IRS's pay and benefits bulletin, said the major shifts in call centre pay had been at the lower and upper ends of the salary scale.

"These reflect the industry's need to attract new recruits with improved salaries on entry and to retain staff through higher rewards to service or performance," he said.

"With so many changes happening within the call centre sector, it will be interesting to see whether these pay increases will be sustainable in the long term."

He said call centre managers might accede to demands from staff for more flexible working arrangements under the 2002 Employment Act, which could be a way of averting higher pay claims.

Spiralling pay rates might also encourage employers to move more jobs overseas to countries such as India, where graduates fluent in English are happy to work in call centres for far lower wages than those that are paid in the UK.

Last week HSBC, the banking group, said it was transferring 4,000 jobs to India and the Far East in the single largest outsourcing to date in the financial services industry.

The IRS survey also showed that starting salaries in the public sector were between 12 and 18 per cent higher than in the private sector.

These jobs are unlikely to be moved overseas, given the heated political debate over the threat to UK jobs.

Economists have warned that the massive public sector investment and recruitment programmes will force wages up as companies are forced to compete for workers.

The survey showed that lower-grade call centre workers earn £13,000 on average while higher-grade workers are paid £14,820. Team leaders earn £18,000 and managers receive £27,420.

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