Tues 27 April 2004
'Big Brother' surveillance dominates Scotland's
UNISON Scotland has uncovered shockingly high levels of unwarranted
surveillance by bosses in Scotland's contact (call) centres. A recently commissioned
survey into the nature and extent of monitoring of centre staff revealed that
67% of Scottish call centre staff have had phone calls monitored, 82% have had
email monitored and 62% have had computer usage monitored.
monitoring included not only their work-related communications but also private
communications. Respondents claimed that calls from family members were monitored,
even when they were clearly of a highly personal nature and one respondent claimed
that her team manager printed an email she received describing an urgent family
crisis including personal medical details.
Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish
Organiser for Utilities, said ''We have been concerned for a number of years that
surveillance of staff in Scotland's contact centres was becoming more invasive.
However, even we had not anticipated the intolerably high levels of unwarranted
monitoring of staff that this survey revealed.
"Perhaps most worryingly,
there is little evidence from this survey that employers are adopting the principles
set out in the Employment Practices Data Protection Code (EPDPC) or that they
understand the damage this level of staff concern has on morale and performance"
The most worrying results from the survey came when respondents were asked
what impact the monitoring had on them. 'Demeaning' was the most common response
with more than half finding monitoring stressful.
Over 70% suffered from
different levels of anxiety with 17% suffering from depression and over 52% of
call centre staff stated that they had considered resigning as a result of excessive
monitoring in the workplace. This figure reflects a recently published report
on the UK call centre industry (IDS Report 2003), which highlighted that over
60% of Scottish based call centres had problems with retaining staff.
figure is in stark contrast to the 25% of UK call centres that had experienced
The key points from the survey were:
is an unacceptably high level of surveillance in Scottish call centres, including
monitoring private communications.
* Where workplace polices on monitoring
exist they are poorly explained and have failed to convince staff that monitoring
* Staff generally regard monitoring as demeaning and cite
it as causing high levels of psychological distress.
* Monitoring of staff
has a significant negative impact on recruitment and retention.
for Editors - The survey involved 230 interviews with UNISON members. The survey
was randomly drawn from members in customer facing posts mostly (70%) in the private
sector. Whilst the survey was commissioned by the energy and water industries
the sample included members in other services. Interviews were undertaken during
the period October 2003 to January 2004 using e.mail, telephone and face to face
Further detail on the survey is available on the UNISONScotland
or from Chris Bartter on Michael Byers (Numbers below)
For Further Information
Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser- Utilities) 0845 355 0845(w)
07787 558 410(m) Michael Byers (In formation Development Officer) 0845 355 0845(w)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m) 9