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(en) FAU, direkte aktion: EXPLOITED AT SYKES - An interview about a successful wage claim against the multinational call center company SYKES. (de)

Date Sat, 19 Jun 2021 09:55:11 +0300

SYKES is a multinational company that specializes in outsourced call center services for various customers. The company offers its services to PlayStation and Sonos, for example. The neoliberal practice of capitalizing on the outsourced areas of other companies works through the exploitation of employees, who are under enormous work pressure. Globally, this corporate practice affects 55,000 employees. It is therefore a good thing that many people who have been cheated out of their wages are fighting back. In Berlin, a workplace group has been formed at SYKES. After the successful wage claim by Joe from Berlin, he gave us an interview.
DA: Can you explain the daily work routine at SYKES?
J: Agents have to connect to the line at the exact time that they are supposed to start their shift. This means that we have to start 10 minutes before, because it takes a while to connect to the line (both in the office and from home office). This time is unpaid (although they give some extra break time in compensation).

Then, once in the line, if you are lucky and no one is calling, you can start rushing to request your break: yes, every day the break has to be reserved and approved by your team manager (some workers even come earlier to be sure to have the break when they want it). This process of asking for the break is like a competition, because the priority of the company is that there are always enough agents in the line, and not that the agents have their breaks when they need it to rest.

The amount of work varies a lot among teams. Some teams receive very few calls during the day, and they have tons of idle time. Other teams work non stop, after a call the next one is waiting. Anyways, there are lots of tasks to do (emails, chats, callbacks, etc.) during the idle time. But even if there is nothing left to do and nobody is calling, agents have to stay in the line without doing anything.

Agents are supposed to take their break when a window pops up. The problem is that sometimes this window doesn't appear (even if you have been working for 5 hours non stop in front of the computer).

DA: For how long you‘ve been in the company?

J: I only worked there 1 month and a half.

DA: Did you have an temporary contract there? What kind of employment were you in?

J: All workers start with a temporary contract. Everybody has a temporary contract during the first 2 years.

DA: SYKES has a lot of customers.. Are you working for the same company all the time as an callcenteragent? or is the service you have to provide for all the companys that SYKES have contracts with?

J: Each agent works for a customer. However, sometimes workers change of customer after some time.

DA: Did you quit because of the working conditions?

J: I quit because of the stress. It was very exhausting, specially because of the problems with the breaks. It was affecting my health and my doctor recommended me to change the job.

DA: How was the situation after you quit? What were your demands?

J: After quitting they didn't pay my extra hours, they didn't pay the remaining holidays and they didn't send me the recommendation letter. Moreover, they didn't pay me the performance bonuses that corresponded to me.

DA: How long did the whole process take?

J: We decided in FAU Berlin to go to courts without a lawyer, as we thought that the case was clear and easy enough to be able to manage it (and of course there are great comrades in the union with a lot of knowledge!), and we also wanted to learn. This made it probably faster, so in total it lasted less than 6 months.

DA: Are you still in contact with some colleges?

J: Yes, I'm still in contact and we created a FAU-Betriebsgruppe in SYKES. The aim is to be a contact point for workers who may have questions about their situation (for example everybody has problems with the payment of the bonus), to support agents against the pressure of your bosses and superiors, and to be a place for organizing the workforce: from my point of view, the long term goal is to improve the working conditions, including more dignity and democracy in the workplace, and more security in the contracts. But to reach that, we need more workers to join us!

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