International news

Indian call centre staff abused by UK and US customers

Increasing numbers of Indian call centre workers are leaving their jobs because of levels of abuse from UK and US customers, research has revealed. More workers than ever are facing daily hostility including outbursts of verbal abuse and racism, according to a study in Global Outsourcing magazine.

Some organisations have started employing psychiatrists and counsellors to help their employees deal with the abuse. Shyamanuja Das, editor of the magazine, blamed anger in the West over job losses and fears about offshoring as the main factor behind the growing problem.

According to the magazine, more organisations have started allowing employees to hang up on rude customers after warning them about their language – previously a sackable offence.

An estimated 350,000 people work in the Indian call centre sector, but they are so far unrepresented by any official union.

Australians set to lose right to sue for unfair dismissal
Millions of staff will lose their right to sue for unfair dismissal in the biggest industrial relations shake-up in Australian history.

Prime minister John Howard has unveiled sweeping changes, going further than promised in exempting the business community from unfair-dismissal laws.

Under the new system, businesses with up to 100 staff will be exempt from unfair-dismissal laws – more than half of the total workforce.

A Fair Pay Commission will set minimum wages, and the probationary period for new recruits in firms with more than 100 workers will increase from three to six months. A special taskforce will review all the existing awards within 12 months.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions plans national protests this month against the reforms. Howard said they offered a historic chance to make workplaces more flexible, and to move away from the centralised wage-fixing system.

The laws underpinning the package will be passed after 1 July.

Czech mothers are top of EU employment league

Nearly 90% of Czech women with teenage children are working – the highest proportion in the whole of the EU, according to the Europe’s statistical agency, Eurostat.

However, only 54% of women with children aged 13 or under are employed. Among those with children who are younger than two years of age, the proportion in work is below 20% – compared with the EU average of 50%.

This is mainly because Czech employers are obliged by law to hold jobs open for mothers until their child is three years old – delaying mothers’ return to work.

A separate study by research institute Eiro shows there is a difference of 25% between the incomes of men and women – the second biggest pay gap in the EU after Germany, which has a difference of 26%.

Other surveys have revealed that women in the Czech Republic earn less than their male counterparts even when they are doing the same work.

Noise and carbon monoxide increase hearing loss

The combination of noise and carbon monoxide exposure at work increases hearing loss, according to a study by Canada’s Montreal University.

Researchers believe this occurs when a reduction of oxygen in the bloodstream accelerates the deterioration of the sensory cells of the inner ear.

The findings are the result of a study conducted with more than 8,600 workers exposed to both noise and carbon monoxide in the workplace, including welders, firefighters and garage mechanics.

The hearing of workers exposed to noise levels that were lower than 90 decibels for eight hours was compared with another group of workers who were exposed to noise levels above 90 decibels.

A sample from both groups was also exposed to carbon monoxide as well.

The workers who were exposed to carbon monoxide and to noise levels above 90 decibels displayed significantly poorer hearing thresholds at high frequencies than the other group.

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