PARIS and NYON, Switzerland: The French National Contact Point (NCP) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued a strong set of recommendations for Paris-based call centre giant Teleperformance to correct shortcomings in worker health and safety protocols and the right to freedom of association throughout the company’s global operations.
One significant recommendation is that company should “strengthen its due diligence and engagement with stakeholders representing workers in order to ensure the respect for the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining of workers as provided for in the OECD Guidelines.”
The NCP’s referrals come in response to a specific instance UNI Global Union and French trade unions submitted that detailed shocking, unsanitary conditions in Teleperformance’s call centres during the pandemic along with retaliation and union busting against workers who organized for better conditions.
The April 2020 filing alleges that these abuses violated workers’ rights, as defined by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, in ten countries including Albania, Colombia, France, Greece, India, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Teleperformance call centres in the complaint provide support for some of the largest companies in the world including Apple, Google, Amazon, and Orange.
“Emphasizing the importance of social dialogue, trade unions, and independent, worker-led safety committees, these recommendations provide a clear roadmap for Teleperformance to strengthen compliance with internationally recognized human rights standards and ensure workplace health and safety,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
“We thank the NCP a thorough examination of the facts, and we call on the company to follow this guidance by meaningfully engaging with worker representatives locally and globally,” she continued.
Some of the most disturbing images from Teleperformance’s handling of the pandemic emerged from the Philippines, where workers were forced to sleep on cramped call centre floors. One worker described the conditions as “subhuman.”
The NCP addresses this issue directly by discouraging the use of call centres for worker lodging and for “Teleperformance to develop an enhanced monitoring and specific due diligence measures for its activities in the Philippines towards CSR risks (notably human rights, social rights) … In the absence of trade union organizations within the Philippine subsidiary, the NCP recommends that the Group promote consultation and co-operation on matters of mutual concern with stakeholders representing Filipino workers present in the Philippines or active at the international level.”
In the Philippines as well as in India the NCP calls on Teleperformance “to strengthen employees’ representation in health and safety committees.” In other countries, the NCP recommends that the company also move quickly to facilitate the election of these committees.
UNI’s submission to the OECD also documented a pattern of retaliation against workers who organized during the pandemic. Teleperformance fired union leaders in Albania and Colombia soon after their support for the union was made public. Also in Colombia, management fired workers after they organized a walkout to protest unsafe conditions—such as inadequate social distancing, lack of personal protective equipment, and shared equipment during the pandemic.
The company’s actions in dismissing workers in these two countries were, according to the NCP, “contrary to the freedom of association of workers, as recommended by the OECD Guidelines, thus akin to anti-union practices.”
The NCP calls on Teleperformance to “ensure, as soon as possible, that its Albanian and Colombian subsidiaries respect the right of workers to form or join trade unions and representative organizations of their choice.”
On a global level, the company should “exercise a particularly strengthened vigilance in cases of dismissals involving staff representatives, trade union representatives and unionized workers in its countries of activities. The NCP recommends that the Group provide appropriate remediation measures if cases of non-compliance with the OCED Guidelines are found.”
UNI has noted that Teleperformance’s anti-union actions continued after its OECD filing, noting the dismissal of additional union leaders in Albania and firing two activists in Poland.
The NCP pledges to follow up with its recommendations in twelve months.
“Teleperformance is growing rapidly in countries in countries where workers’ rights are systematically violated,” said UNI’s Hoffman. “The NCP’s recommendations make clear that the company has not done all it can to uphold employees’ rights to safe jobs and union representation. We hope in a year’s time Teleperformance management will begin treating workers—and their unions—like partners rather than enemies.”
On 17 April 2020, the international trade union federation UNI Global Union with four French trade union organizations affiliated to it–CFDT Fédération Communication Conseil Culture, CGT-FAPT, CGT Fédération des Sociétés d’Etudes, and FO-FEC—a specific instance to the French OECD. The instance covered Albania, Colombia, France, Greece, India, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States.
With 383,000 workers in 80 countries, Teleperformance is one of France’s largest global employers and the largest call centre company in the world.
UNI has long sought to strengthen due diligence and respect for workers’ rights at Teleperformance. In July 2019, UNI along with French NGO Sherpa filed a warning with the company alleging Teleperformance’s vigilance plan did not meets the minimum requirements of the French Law on the Duty of Vigilance. UNI also coordinates a global alliance of Teleperformance unions—to raise standards worldwide at the company.