File picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
File picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Call centre staff 'offered 50% increase to work during lockdown'

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Mar 31, 2020

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Cape Town – Some call centre employees say they feel their well-being is not being taken seriously as a number of businesses have remained open during the national lockdown, insisting they are an essential service.

A call centre agent based in the CBD, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job, said employees were offered a 50% increase if they worked during the period.

“They are offering 50% upliftment for agents on top of what you are earning now. This is an act against the government. They are saying we will offer people more money and obviously many people will want to be at work.”

He said he would not be taking up the offer.

Another agent said they resorted to asking political party officials to try to get the centre to close.

“We are stressed out as to why should we come to work during this period and the bosses or directors can go home and be safe while we are exposed to this.”

He said they were told they would be given gloves and face masks to work with.

Another agent from Capita in Century City said the call centre was closed just before the lockdown came into effect.

“I think they felt the pressure there were protests at other call centres.”

He said the company was now trying to make plans to get laptops for those staff able to work from home.

A Capita spokesperson said: “We have closed all our offices in South Africa as of Thursday, as per the government’s requirement for lockdown.

“Wherever possible, colleagues will work from home so we can continue to serve our customers and clients.”

Locally based provider of a range of outsourcing services, WNS SA media spokesperson Pieter du Preez said some of the services they provided were essential and all other employees would be working from home.

“We are following due process and all essential staff tied to these processes will be carrying permits should they need to visit one of our centres.

The City, meanwhile, said Cape Town had a high representation of local and international Business Processing Outsource (BPO) companies, which employed 29 000 people via call centres and mainly worked in utilities, transport and telecommunications services. This included those who fell under the exemption category.

“We are working with industry to identify innovative practices to combat present challenges. These options include providing remote skills training for beneficiaries who are currently training, to avoid classroom contact and exposure but still provide a steady pipeline of skilled workers for the sector, which we identified as a high-growth sector.

“We are also engaging with companies regarding alternative arrangements for workers to provide suitable sites, including work from home solutions where possible,” the City said.

Cape Times

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