Last night, on Twitter, I wrote “Call Centres are like churches and bars. There is one of every corner (in Kingston). Scary.”
My tweet was read with much skepticism. The responses, unsurprisingly, suggested that unemployment is scarier and one person asked if we should ask the call centres to pack up and go. Of course, that is not the answer and certainly not what I want.
What I have noticed, each time I raise the matter of how frightening it is that there are so many call centres all around and how dependent we have become on them, is that the vast majority of us do not think beyond the mere provision/availability of a job. This is rather sad.
Call centres, like all-inclusive hotels, are are among the primary sources of employment in Jamaica–especially for young people. They are also the spaces where our citizens face rampant abuse, paid low wages and without options for redress to challenge the unfair treatment they are subjected to. I shared my concerns about this section in The Jamaica Gleaner a year ago.
Privileged as I might be, I am acutely aware of the experiences of persons working in call centres (and all-inclusive hotels). Their rights, their dignity, their humanity are often ignored and trampled upon. They are forced to remain silent, to suffer, to accept the abuse because they have no job security. They are constantly told/reminded that there are many people on the outside waiting for them to leave to get their job. This is no way for anyone to live.
I am happy that there are opportunities for people to be employed but I am bothered about the conditions under which people, some of whom I know, are forced to work. We can’t only think about the availability of jobs. We have to think about the quality of jobs people can access for gainful employment, the laws and policies that protect them, and their access to redress if their rights are violated.
We have to be concerned about the rapid rise in call centres (there must be a reason for this). We have to be concerned about how we woo these entities to our shores (usually by letting them know they can pay us much cheaper than they pay Americans, according to one ad I saw from JAMPRO). We have to be concerned about the benefits offered to these entities to set up shop in our country. We have to be concerned about how we condition our people to accept abuse and the violation of their rights.
What really is the point of working so hard if the conditions under which you work are poor and you can barely take care of yourself? Perhaps someone will do an independent assessment to truly understand the situation –economic, psychological and otherwise and determine a way forward.