OECD Complaint: Teleperformance has violated workers’ right to a safe workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic
In 10 countries—including France, the Philippines, Colombia, U.K., Albania, Portugal, and Greece—complaint details unsafe conditions in facilities providing customer support to clients such as Apple, Google, and Amazon.
It is the first Covid-19-related complaint filed under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
17 April 2020—In a complaint filed with the French government today, a coalition of labour unions is calling for immediate intervention to stop violations of workers’ right to a safe workplace at Teleperformance, the Paris-based outsourcing giant for clients like Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google.
The complaint, delivered to the French OECD National Contact Point in Paris, is the first-ever filed under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises alleging workers’ rights violations during the Covid-19 crisis. It documents shocking, unsanitary conditions such as hundreds of workers having to sleep on crowded call centre floors and multiple employees sharing equipment such as headsets during the coronavirus crisis. The complaint also alleges retaliation against workers who organized for basic personal protections and dismissals of trade union leaders.
“Teleperformance’s inadequate, slow response to the coronavirus crisis has put thousands of workers at risk in the time of a deadly pandemic,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “These widespread problems show a disregard for workers’ fundamental rights, including their health and safety, throughout the company’s global management. That is why we are asking the French government to step in and help secure urgent remedies under the OECD Guidelines.”
Hoffman continued, “Workers need safe jobs now, but also the guarantee of safe jobs as they return to the new normal that develops in the aftermath of this pandemic.”
UNI filed the complaint along with its French union affiliates: CFDT Fédération communication conseil culture, CGT-FAPT, CGT Fédération des Sociétés d’Etudes, and FO-FEC. In addition to a dialogue with the company, the unions are calling for a number of solutions, including an end to on-site sleeping, the reinstatement of fired union leaders and safety activists, a global sick leave policy, and the formation of independent health and safety committees to monitor the company’s progress in addressing the crisis.
The unions believe these solutions are necessary first steps to address the crisis conditions found in the company’s operations. Examples include:
- A “serious, grave and imminent risk” to French employees. In France, three Teleperformance facilities have been at least temporarily closed, including one running the French government’s Covid-19 info line. Last month, a health inspector said of the company’s Blagnac site that:
“inaction is such as to expose employees to a serious, grave and imminent risk of harm to their physical integrity and constitutes a failure in their obligation to provide and healthy and safe working environment to workers.”
- “Subhuman” conditions in the Philippines. Because of travel restrictions imposed by the Philippines government, workers who are unable to travel to work are required to sleep on the floor at Teleperformance facilities for the 30-day period of the curfew or stay home and receive no wage payment. Workers are not provided sleeping quarters that adequately allow for social distancing. These issues were later reported on by the Financial Times, which focused on problems in the Amazon Ring account in Cebu, where a worker described the conditions as “subhuman.”
- Failing to protect Portuguese employees. After five Covid-19 cases were found in one of Teleperformance Portugal’s contact centres, the Call Centre Workers Union (STCC) requested the company close the facility. However, the company continued operating the facility, one of Teleperformance’s largest call centres in Europe, until it was shut down by the health authorities. STCC representatives told UNI Global Union that contacting the Portuguese health and labour authorities was their only option after the company refused to listen to their concerns.
- Alleged retaliation against safety activists in Colombia. After enduring inadequate social distancing, a lack of personal protective equipment, and unsanitary conditions, a group of nearly 100 workers held a spontaneous work stoppage at a Bogota call centre on 26 March. On 30 March, four of the group’s spokespeople were fired by Teleperformance management, the unions believe, in retaliation because of their push for safe conditions.
In addition to these instances, the complaint describes problems in the United Kingdom, Greece, India, Albania, the United States, and Mexico.
Governments are obliged to ensure that multinationals based in their country respect the OECD guidelines, which include the freedom of association and other labour rights like health and safety.
With 331,000 employees in 80 countries, Teleperformance is the world’s largest provider of outsourced customer service. It is the second largest French employer outside of France, and the majority of its workforce operates in countries with a high risk of labour rights violations.
UNI Global Union represents 20 million service industry workers in 150 countries. During the Covid-19 crisis, UNI has worked with global employers to secure safe jobs for their workforces worldwide, and has released guidelines for safe jobs in several sectors of our economy—including call centres.