19.04.23 Big Tech

Teleperformance signs ‘historic agreement’ allowing Colombian workers to unionise

The global outsourcing giant Teleperformance has signed a “historic agreement” that guarantees its 40,000 workers in Colombia the right to form a union following a TBIJ investigation into the working conditions faced by the company’s TikTok moderators.

The agreement also gives union organisers access to employees’ workplaces and establishes clear channels of communication between the union and management, according to a statement by UNI Global, an international trade union federation.

Colombian labour vice-minister Edwin Palma Egea opened a government probe into Teleperformance, a huge Paris-based multinational, in November after an investigation by TBIJ and TIME magazine that found evidence of traumatic working conditions, low pay and extensive worker surveillance.

TBIJ also found allegations of union-busting by Teleperformance, with eyewitnesses saying they had seen union organisers harassed by security staff while trying to speak to workers near the company’s Bogotá offices.

Teleperformance had previously filed a legal claim against a Colombian union in a move described by UNI Global as an attempt to intimidate those who had joined.

The Colombian deal comes after a similar agreement to improve labour rights for 440,000 staff in 88 countries in December. Palma Egea hailed Wednesday’s deal as a “historic agreement [which] guarantees freedom of association in one of the largest private sector employers in the country”.

TBIJ’s investigation found that Teleperformance content moderators tasked with watching videos of child abuse, extreme violence and suicide earned as little as $10 per day. Workers described the mental-health support available through the company, which can take weeks to be approved, as woefully inadequate.

Employees also described a system of demanding or impossible performance targets, with the failure to meet them resulting in the loss of a monthly bonus worth up to a quarter of their salary.

After the government investigation was announced in November, the company’s share price fell by a third in a day, though it has since recovered.

Teleperformance CEO Daniel Julien has reportedly said that the criticism of his company was “unfair, unsubstantiated, crazy, storm-in-a-glass-of-water polemic”. Nevertheless, it has carried out an internal audit of its Colombian operation.

The deal announced on Tuesday serves as the national-level implementation of December's agreement. UNI Global said: “The agreement serves as a global model of how unions and companies can work together to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, the generation of decent and quality employment and social dialogue.”

Reporter: Niamh McIntyre
Tech editor: Jasper Jackson
: Meirion Jones
Fact checker: Alex Hess

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