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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 July 2008

Call centre charter: A framework for workers' rights

THE PCS union says that call centre workers in DWP take calls from new claimants for benefits such as jobseekers allowance, incapacity benefit, income support ('primary benefits') and maternity allowance, bereavement benefit, carers allowance and industrial injuries disablement benefit ('secondary benefits').

First of all they identify what benefits a customer may be eligible for, and if it is a 'secondary benefit' just send out the claim pack. If it's a 'primary benefit', they have to gather all of the information needed for the claim, take any necessary child support or tax credits action, then book an appointment at the customer's local jobcentre (if appropriate).

This is all important work, with many customers who are very worried and vulnerable. But many call centre managers treat both staff and customers with contempt. The PCS says that, according to the Health and Safety Executive, call centre workers have a right to:

Main demands

The PCS, realising that workers have to fight to obtain such basic requirements and that the union has to build a framework for workers' rights in these contact centres, has produced its Call Centre Charter, whose main demands are:

Provide sufficient staffing levels to ensure: There are enough staff to effectively handle customer calls. Staff are trained to deal with the calls. Cover for leave and other absences. Work and family life balance.

For equality, no discrimination. All staff should be encouraged to join a trade union. This should all be underpinned by a respect for core labour standards as set out in the International Labour Organisation declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. These include the right to organise unions, to bargain collectively and freedom from discrimination.

The charter also sets out key principles on issues such as lighting, noise, work-station assessments etc. The union has established a PCS National Call Centre Forum and aims to establish forums in every department.

For more details see: www.pcs.org.uk

DO YOU work in a call centre? What are your working conditions like? Are you organised in a trade union? Send your experiences to The Socialist: editors@socialistparty.org.uk or PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD.

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In The Socialist 9 July 2008:

Striking back against low pay


Campaign for a New Workers Party

The working class needs its own party

CNWP conference: Wanted - a new mass workers' party


Socialist Party news and analysis

UK economy sliding into recession

Rich get richer: Why should we pay the price!

MP backs student fees campaign

Bonuses for chiefs, pay restraint for civil service workers

Government lies on public-sector pay

High farce from Boris Johnson

G8 leaders' 'world hunger' banquet

On the other side of the financial divide...


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Defend the NHS!

Property deals threaten private nursing homes

Cancer vaccines: who decides?


Marxist analysis: history

Terry Fields: A socialist voice that rocked Whitehall


Socialist Party LGBT

Marching against homophobia & racism


Socialist Party workplace news

Argos warehouse workers vote to strike

DWP strikes bring talks

National Shop Stewards Network Conference: Organising migrant workers

A day in the life of a call centre worker

Call centre charter: A framework for workers' rights

RMT conference discusses crisis of political representation


Shop Workers' Union Usdaw

Socialist stands for Usdaw general secretary


 

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