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June 25, 2012

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Union demands improved working conditions in call centres

A survey conducted by public-service trade union UNISON has found that health problems are rife among call-centre workers.

The survey was carried out by the University of Portsmouth Business School on behalf of UNISON, and 771 call-centre workers took part. The results highlighted a number of health concerns raised by the participants, including access to toilet facilities, raised by more than a quarter of respondents.

More than 70 per cent of respondents have experienced eye-strain, almost 60 per cent reported hearing problems, and over half had suffered problems with their voice. UNISON said it is equally concerned about call-centre workers suffering mental distress, with more than 80 per cent of respondents saying their work caused them to feel stressed, and a quarter of those said the stress has reached a damaging level in their personal lives.

The findings of the survey have formed the basis of the new UNISON Calling guide, which aims to help the union’s reps work with employers to ensure the health and well-being of call-centre workers remains a top priority.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis described the results of the survey as “alarming”. He said: “That this survey has shown more than a quarter have had their basic right to a toilet break restricted or monitored is bad enough, but the physical toll on call workers’ eyes, ears and voices – the tools of their trade – is something that managers and organisations cannot ignore.

“Workers rightly expect their employers to have a duty of care not only to their physical health but also to their mental well-being. The results should be a wake-up call for call-centre employers, and UNISON demands that they act now before the situation gets even worse.”

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