SENZA CENSURA N. 23
november 2007 - february 2008
STILL ABOUT CALL- CENTERS
A testimony from the Wind call-center (Sesto S. Giovanni, Milano, Italy)
On the last number of "Senza Censura" we published the interview of the PrecariAtesia collective of Rome. Without any doubt it is one of the most interesting auto- organized reality in the field of the precarious work. We publish the speech of a Wind operator in Sesto S. Goivanni (MI) at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Milan in order to give a more complete look on the struggles developed in the call-centers. In this case, the dismantling processes and the sector investments made by Enel, the externalisations caused by the cessions of branches of business (well supported by the law no. 30) represented for the workers the loss of the employment and their division (between seats, contracts and so on). The elements which favoured the division of the workers are: Damiano's memo about "regularisation" of the inbound workers which stated without no more doubts the division between inbound and outbound workers, the confederal bargaining, the law no. 30.
Speech of a woman working in the Sesto S. Giovanni call- center (ex- Wind) during the assembly "Formative flexibility, working precariousness" on 03/23/07 organized by the Collective of Political Sciences of the State University of Milan.
I am an ex- delegate of the Wind call- center in Sesto San Giovanni. The vicissitude of Wind was born in Sesto San Giovanni in 1999, when Enel decided to diversify the series of call business. This means that there was the idea to pass from electricity to the true business, that is the one of the fixed and mobile telephony, that has higher limits of profitability with respect to Fiat, which has about the 8% (we have the 40%), so a sector where you can make lots of benefits and profits. In August 2005, the 67% of Wind is sold and the sell is completed in December 2006. Wind was a government- controlled business, because it was controlled by Enel at the 100%. It was sold for more than a half from Berlusconi' s executive and for the 23% by Prodi' s one, without any request of employment guarantee. Usually when you sell a public property, there is a minimum of employment guarantee. Wind has about 8000 employees in Italy. It has call- centers in Palermo, one in Ivrea, one in Milan, one in Rome and one in Naples. The total of call- center operators is 2500, 8000 employees and so much families. The care must be presented for the sell by the last Italian executive or by the current one. We have been sold to an Egyptian capitalist who has been active all along the Middle- East with a telephony business whose name was Orascom. It is active in Pakistan and has mobile telephony concessions in Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Algeria,... The sell happened in the same way of that of Telecom and Autostrade. First of all, it was a sell with debt, that is with loans given by credit institutes. A credit which was included in the balance. How much does it cost for a business? To get it into debts, to get it into dangers, both in the employments and in its survival. We must also consider that the telecommunications sector needs very high and strong investments, because of its continuing updating of technologies (we can think about the "third generation" technology for mobile phones). When you buy a business with debt it means that the property did not give the money to buy it, so it would not give the money for the investments to support concurrency. This is the case of Wind. The new property, with a sell price higher than 15 millions of euros, allocated 200 millions. Wind has to pay the interests on the debt which that the banks ask year by year through the rest inserted in the balance. It has to settle a part of the debt that incurs every time that the Egyptian property decides to pursue a worldwide politics of acquisitions. They simply pursue a politics of acquisitions, applying the same technique, that is contacting the bank institutes. In this way they incur a new debt, indebting the acquired society.
There is a system in Italy used to recover the money which is required to pay the interests on debt and to make the necessary investments to stand the concurrency of competitors such as Tim and Vodafone, which have an aggressive politics. This system is: to low the costs through the rationalisation of the spaces, the sets, rather than trough international supply contracts. For instance, the Egyptian property has stipulated a international agreement with Nokia to develop the third generation net. This means that Nokia will give the up- to- date net from India to Italy.
The last and most painful aspect is the reduction of the employees. It is done through two instruments: the first is the incentive for the dismissal. I fire and put myself in the labour market, after two years of salary. I cannot give you the exact numbers of the quantity of people who did this. If we follow Wind's stories, I think they are about one thousand of workers. Now we find ourselves in a more aggressive moment of this politics of reduction of employees. Actually, they began with ceding some branches of business. We have been the first hit by this politics. We are one of the five Wind call- centers. We have some doubts from a normative point of view, because if they talk about a branch of business, it comprehends all the call- center service and not only one. We knew about the cession of the business branch on January 12, when for the first time the property communicated the profits. With 56 millions of profits, Wind decided to free itself from 275 workers. The mobilization was strong.
I want to say that there is a huge level of school attendance in call- centers: lots of people with different degrees (from engineering to literature and philosophy, languages, and so on). When you are a student you think that the abilities and the qualifications in your curriculum are sufficient to have a professional career. I think that the fact that, after six or seven years in the call- center, workers have not a career depends on the technique of selection and career in the business. They obviously do not reward, most of all in the medium levels, the culture and the qualification, but the fidelity to the business valours and the time availability. There are lots of cases of pregnant women who obviously have to reduce their availability and for this they are subjected to mobbing or dismissal. The procedure started on January 24 and Wind decided the externalisation towards Omnia Service Ltd. It has a social capital of 10000 euros and it is part of Omnia Network Spa. The revolt happened also because this is a business which gives call- center outsourcing services, so it bounds the communication to the order. On 28 February Omnia Network put itself down on the Stock Exchange and presented all its documents to the Consob. In the chapter about the valuation of the risk, they talk about a core business bound essentially to the orders. Most of all, they are all- center orders, but also from logistic or transports, however not "valuable" activities. They have a medium during of two years and they can be cancelled with a minimum notice. The definition I found is that of "volatile business", because usually job relationships are precarious, but in this case the business is precarious too. It has a very low social capital (10000 euros) and we brought two millions and half with our severance pay, in the passage from Wind to Omnia.
We used not only traditional ways such as strikes (also if the time between the declaration and the strike should have be about twenty days because we are a public utility service) to struggle, but we wanted also to hit the image of the business.
Now businesses are more sensitive to those actions which hit their external image more that to traditional struggles. So we organised for months presidia in the most important square for the relationship with the consumers, opposite to those Wind shops which had been defined from the same property as showcases in Milan. We also organised a "call- strike", which consists in calling the green number using technology for us, making the callings rhythm go crazy and creating impossible waiting times.
Moreover we are going through the legal way. All the regulations about cession of branches of business descend from European instructions. The law n. 30 has passed over the European regulations, putting away the functional autonomy requirement. If you think to the cessions of business branches, you could cede a little business which is into a bigger one. This little business should be able to stay autonomously in the market, to sell its products... Law n. 30 took away this functional autonomy requirement and it is sufficient to define the business branch as it is, that is autonomous for everyone who sells and buys. For us the cession was made on March 1, today is April 23 and, for me, we are not autonomous.
I will make a great example. Last Friday we organised assemblies for the workers of the call- center in Sesto. The property called and asked us to defer the assemblies (passing over workers' statute which only asks 48 hours for the notice to the business) saying that the Wind call- center in Ivrea had a formation course and all the callings would be redirected to Sesto. This let us see that all the 5 call- centers ( 4 in Wind property and ours) are still interdependent. So we hope to make our legislative rights value at last, because we do not accept abuses in the application of the regulations. I participated to all the union meetings. Trade- unions' tendency is to sign agreements for the cession of business branches (in Telecom they had about thirty of these). The only result is the cancellation of the order, the loss of the employment for externalised workers, to sign what is already said by the paragraph 2112 of the civil code, that is the conservation of acquired rights. So they make union agreements containing what the civil code already contains for externalised workers. Then, if you will go to a tribunal, judges' tendency is to say that workers are wrong, respecting the union agreement. We have been ceded losing union rights, such as the integrative sanitary found, which was very important for us, because the national sanitary system is being attacked every day. But we preferred to lose those rights, to pursue the legal way. The next struggle action that we are organising is the participation to the Mayday in Milan, on May 1.
Omnia is still enough unknown for us. We are still physically in the palace of Sesto, we have only two people in charge of the department for Omnia. They change our work everyday, so we are not still entered in that new reality. If we look at the numbers which the same Omnia gave us and the ministerial ones (we had gone twice to the ministry of development), we know that we are 3000 employees. Between them, 1800 workers have a project or a business contract and some of them had a temporary contract. So more than a half are precarious contracts. In June the famous Damiano' s memo divided inbound workers from outbound ones. Inbound workers have the right to a subordinated work contract, for a partial, determinate or indeterminate time. The memo uses an ideological false element. It takes a concept of "self- employment", searching in it the elements of the autonomy. In this moment they are leading the stabilisation processes because the financial act states some relieves for the business which stabilize these contracts.
About the temporary work in Wind: we had temporary workers with bimonthly contracts, but now they had gone away. Wind externalised the 80% of the work in the call- center. This means that the work is made by groups such as Call data, Geting, Omnia, and so on. Only the 10% of the work is done in the business. Not considering the different kinds of contracts, we can say that the one of call- centers is one of the most precarious field of work. The memo does not resolve this situation, but it divides up.
One of the things I would like most is a health questionnaire. In a little book about stress and call- center they underline how precariousness is against work safety and causes professional sicknesses. I know that someone wanted to add our job in the list of the most tearing jobs, but they did not. I have a questionnaire made by the Asl of Milan and I would like to subject it to all my colleagues. We thought to add the qualification, to make the enquire more complete. There are lots of hearing problems, or problems to the metacarpus for using the mouse.
I do not know what they teach in universities, but I am afraid when I hear about the overcoming of the theory of the conflict. Reality teaches us that struggles are more efficient than bargaining, based on the exchange and the auto- legitimating action of the parts. It is the same for the theories saying that flexibility is a good thing. Because of my decennial experience of precariousness of the work, reduction of the cost of the work (most of all in Italy, where we are worst paid), I am afraid if in the academic environment they think that flexibility creates development and occupation and that the market is however good.
ORASCOM AND OMNIA NETWORK
Orascom operates in constructions and tourist services. It controls Mobinil, the principal Egyptian society of mobile telephony. Enel invested 17 milliards of euros in Wind in 1997, and then it resold it in 2005 for 12 milliards, there is a loss of about 5 milliards of euros. The American BlackStone (which would pay in cash) took part in the buying competition against Orascom. The supply of BlackStone was higher, but Wind made a tip- off, letting the Orascom president, Sawiris, to increase the supply and to win. Then there was the branch business cession and the call- center employees passed under Omnia Network. The intermediary in the privatisation was the manager Alessandro Benedetti, throughout the Weather Investment. In 1997 he was enquired for distraction of enterprises founds. He was the cashier Ligresti that during Mani Pulite was enquired for tangents. Naguib Sawiris is an Egyptian magnate of telecommunications. He is the president and the biggest actionist in the Orascom- Telecom society, and the leader manager of fixed and mobile telephony in the Mediterranean area. In the list of the richer men in the world published by "Forbes" in 2007 he is at number 62.
Today Omnia Network Spa is one of the principal Italian operator in the field of project, realization and management of outsourcing services for enterprises. The area in which Omnia Network intervenes is most of all the one of "customer operations", that is the relationships among Customers societies and the final customers. The aspects of Logistic are included in that such as the operative location of goods and the development of the computer platforms necessary for the management of all the processes. The group is composed by 14 operative societies, organised in four areas of business: Multimedia Contact center area, Logistic and Transports area, Operative Hire Services area, System Integration area. On 12/31/2006 the group presented a value of profits from sells and services of 224,7 millions of euros. It has an EBIDTA of 17,2 millions of euros, an EBIT of 13,6 millions of euros and a net ransom of 2,9 millions of euros.