Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, has called on the Scottish Government to provide Covid-19 related support and protection specifically for those working in call centres.
This follows an extensive report by Professor Phillip Taylor from the department of Work, Employment and Organisation at Strathclyde University which highlights a number of problems within call centre working conditions during the current crisis. The report found that:- “A toxic mix of inadequate or impossible social distancing, much face-to-face contact, inadequacies of sanitisation, the dread of contamination from the workstation and, in particular, hotdesking, combined with what are reported to be deeply problematic heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in sealed buildings” were all issues present in Scotland’s call centres.
An overarching and recurring issue for workers was the inability to socially distance when in the call centre. Furthermore, workers spoke of the “impossibility of social distancing” due to the “structural impediments that are intrinsic to the contact centre’s built environment – layout, configuration, space constraints, occupational density.”
The report also goes into detail in regard to problems related to the heating and ventilation systems found in most Scottish call centre buildings. Through testimonies from workers, it was found that the extensive spread of infectious diseases was common within call-centres pre Covid-19 due to the lack of suitable ventilation and the extreme temperatures.
Furthermore, issues surrounding the general hygiene of call centres was also raised with “69.4% of contact centre respondents believing that going to the toilet is either ‘very hazardous’ (39.3%) or ‘hazardous’ (30.1%).”
West Dunbartonshire has a number of contact and call centres which employ local people.
Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“The findings of this report are a cause for concern. It is astonishing that – in 2020 – employees are still fearful of contracting diseases and avoid going to the toilet for fear of infection in their workplace and that existed pre-covid 19.
“This report highlights serious systematic failings in parts of the contact/call centre sector and the majority of these issues were present prior to the current crisis. The fact that social distancing has been found to be an impossibility within many call centre buildings and yet some employers still expect workers to show up is cause for grave concern.
“I have called on the Scottish Government to provide immediate support for the contact/call centre industry. These workplaces were unfit long before now and we must use this crisis as an opportunity to end any remaining Dickensian working conditions once and for all.”