Socialist Worker

The Call Centre - where being sworn at is an everyday part of the job

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2355

Nev Wilshire in the call centre

Nev Wilshire in the call centre

This is a five part documentary about a call centre, one of the “factories of the 21st century”.

This is where 700 workers in Swansea’s third largest call centre make 200 cold calls a day. 

The first episode set the scene with Nev Wilshire, boss of Save Britain Money, who instructs workers to “smile as you dial.” He leads singing at the new recruits’ induction and chucks things at anyone who yawns. Staff meetings are called “shit sandwiches”. 

Nev is part David Brent, manager in TV’s The Office, and part Victorian paternalist. 

So he interferes with workers’ personal lives—trying to fix up newly single Kayleigh with various people. 

When this fails, he organises a speed dating night for the staff. Nev then warns off Kayleigh’s choice saying, “You’re not a nice bloke to women” and sets her up with someone else. 

Nev says he needs stable extroverts and wants his staff to be happy enough to stay. 

So he is seen trying to hang on to staff members by giving them different responsibilities.

For Hayley this is making the tea.

This obviously isn’t a great job—even optimistic callers say they have to deal with dozens of people swearing at them and hanging up. 

Later episodes promise more from the workers, whose average age is 26.

They talk about the stress and how anxious the job makes them feel. 

They lose sleep and not surprisingly struggle to get get in at all—let alone on time. 

But Swansea has 10 percent unemployment and this call centre pays £6.50 an hour and an extra £1.55 an hour for turning up regularly.

The fact that this is seen an attractive says a great deal about the alternatives. 

The Call Centre, 9pm Tuesdays from 4 June, BBC Three

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Article information

Tue 28 May 2013, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2355
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