Oz, NZ call centre staff better paid

The latest annual surveys of the call centre industry from Callcentres.net are out and make interesting reading.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

The latest annual surveys of the call centre industry from Callcentres.net are out and make interesting reading.

Australia enjoyed strong turnover growth of 15 per cent to $55 billion in the call centre industry, with seat numbers rising 3 per cent to 198,000. Operating budgets rose 15 per cent.

New Zealand reports a 4 per cent growth in seat numbers to 29,000, though no figures were given for revenue.

Now, while call or contact centres may seem like the cotton mills of today, with a hard-pressed slave-driven workforce, the call centre "battery hens" down under might want to consider themselves lucky.

Australian journalist Angus Kidman reported on the pressures of the job and bemoans low pay of $45,000, with pay rises of 1 per cent failing to keep pace with inflation, helping to keep staff turnover high, making such work something you don't make a career of.

New Zealand is a little behind, with typical salaries in the NZ$38,000 range. Vodafone recently announced it was seeking a pay freeze from its call centre staff, so a similar lack of real wage growth along with high staff turnover will likewise apply in New Zealand.

Now, I have spent the last few weeks visiting family in England and looking in the papers, and I am shocked at some of the wages here.

Britain has well and truly been stuffed by the global financial crisis, and an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and the Indian subcontinent has knocked down wages at the bottom end.

High unemployment is also lowering people's expectations of what work they might expect, along with salary levels.

Furthermore, take into account how the Pound Sterling slid 25 per cent or so against the New Zealand dollar over the past couple of years, more so against the Australian dollar, we now see a reversal of what we have been led to believe.

Remember how we are supposed to look enviously at the UK, thinking the streets of London are paved with gold?

Well, I am currently up north in Yorkshire and have seen call centre jobs advertised here for little more than £6 an hour, equivalent to around $10 (or NZ$13) — just above the minimum wage.

Last week, the papers reported annual salaries of £12,000 to £18,000 for work at such centres.

A third of call centre staff now have a degree and graduates even see contact centres as offering a career!

This is quite the contrast to Australia, where it now seems it is Sydney's streets that are paved with gold, with "battery hen" wages double that of the UK.

Of course, this might present new opportunities for offshoring, especially to those seeking a low-cost land where the natives speak English as a first language. Who needs Bangalore when you have Birmingham!

But to anyone looking to come to the UK for a spell and make their fortune in a call centre, prepare to be disappointed.

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