Was the attack on the fundraising activities of the RFSA justified? – Part 3

Bully, underpay claims about charity call centre

The Sydney Morning Herald published the following article in January 12th 2014. This again raises concerns about the industry in general.

By Andrew Taylor

Charity may begin at home but some former workers say there is precious little of it at a Sydney call centre that works on behalf of NSW not-for-profit organisations.

Former staff of Contact Centres Australia allege there is a culture of bullying, intimidation and harassment at the centre and claim they were underpaid.

It is also claimed operators at the Surry Hills-based company are under constant surveillance during their shifts, with conversations between workers recorded.

Alexandra Batorowicz, 20, from Rosebery, worked at Contact Centres Australia for more than a year until last month when, she says, she was marched out of the workplace.

Ms Batorowicz says her dismissal followed a conversation she had with a co-worker about a music festival, during which they mentioned illicit substances.

She describes the workplace as ”really intimidating” and says: ”Every word you say when wearing headphones is recorded.”

Other workers have made similar complaints. An industrial officer with the National Union of Workers, Imogen Beynon, says the union has serious concerns about the legal and moral implications of this type of surveillance.

”This isn’t about monitoring work performance,” she says. ”It appears to be the systematic recording of private conversations.”

Another former employee, Aniruddah Shinde, says there is a lot of unfair treatment where some workers are given lists of phone numbers to call that make it easier to earn a commission on top of their base pay.

”If they liked you, they put you on a list where you’d make more sales,” Mr Shinde, 19, from Leumeah, says. ”If they didn’t like you, it was a lot harder to make money.”

He believes he was underpaid and is owed at least several hundred dollars by the company.

The union had made an application to the Fair Work Commission to deal with the dispute over pay and was listed for a hearing this month.

Other former employees have made similar claims against the company, union organiser Jafar Kazmi says.

”They are brazen about lying about their underpayments and about threatening employees with consequences should they talk to outside parties,” he says.

Mr Kazmi says workers are berated in front of colleagues and pulled into rooms to be confronted aggressively by managers.

He also alleges he was assaulted by a Contact Centres Australia manager during a meeting with staff in front of the call centre last month.

A director of Contact Centres Australia, Benjamin Crabbe, says: ”We are not in a position to provide any comments other than that CCA completely denies that it pays its employees less than their award entitlements.

”We are not aware of any disputation with employees currently employed by CCA and there are no outstanding claims by ex-employees of CCA.”

He denies workers’ conversations were recorded, claiming it was not possible to do so, and says the video cameras installed throughout the workplace were purely for security.

Many charities outsource their fund-raising to third parties such as Contact Centres Australia.

Its not-for-profit clients include the NSW Rural Fire Service Association, Wheelchair Sports NSW, The Kids’ Cancer Project and the State Emergency Service Volunteers Association. Other clients are FBi radio and the City of Sydney council.

The National Union of Workers argues that many call centres pay less than the legal minimum wage and are workplaces where harassment and bullying are accepted.

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