Washington, DC – New stories in the Charlotte Observer and the American Prospect help shine a light on how companies such as Wells Fargo have been laying off American call center workers while ramping up hiring in offshore locations such as the Philippines. The stories, excerpted below, are the latest reminders why federal call center legislation is sorely needed.
The bipartisan U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would require that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking; offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S. based center if preferred; and make U.S. companies that off-shore their call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.
Deon Roberts in the Charlotte Observer: “Now hiring — Wells Fargo seeks overseas call center workers as it slashes US jobs”
“Wells Fargo has been quietly bulking up its call-center operations in the Philippines, adding positions in the southeast Asian country where it has long kept offshore jobs.
The move by the third-largest U.S. bank by assets is occurring even as other companies have done the reverse in recent years – transferring call-center functions back to the U.S. It also comes as Wells Fargo continues to reel from a sales scandal that erupted in 2016.
Wells Fargo has had operations in the Philippines since at least 2011, including information technology and other roles, but had not received much attention in the U.S. for its more recent expansions in the island republic.
This spring, however, the bank said the operation had grown from less than 100 to more than 4,000 over six years. Wells also said it was building another location that could seat more than 7,000.
The issue came to light this month during a Senate hearing on the sales scandal, when Sen. Joe Donnelly questioned CEO Tim Sloan about cutting American call-center workers while beefing up operations in the Philippines.
…The Communications Workers of America union has criticized Wells Fargo since the Senate hearing, saying the bank’s recent call-center layoffs in the U.S. continue a trend from 2011 and 2012. At that time, Wells laid off hundreds of call-center workers in states like California, Florida and Pennsylvania, the union said.
Richard Honeycutt, vice president for the union’s Southeast region, told the Observer such layoffs are short-sighted and a major problem for communities.
“It hurts working people who lose good jobs, it hurts communities that need a solid tax base in order to provide important public services, and it hurts customers who are not getting the service they pay for,” Honeycutt said.”
Jordan Ecker in The American Prospect, “Big Banks Blame Automation as They Offshore American Jobs”
“When Capital One announced in August that they were laying off 400 call-center workers from a Rolling Meadows, Illinois, location, the company officials claimed that they were moving toward automation. “Call volumes continue to decrease as customers increasingly self-service through a mix of our digital tools and contact center calls,” Sie Soheili, a Capital One spokesperson, told the Chicago Tribune. The Rolling Meadows layoffs follow the loss of 1,500 Capital One call-center jobs in Oregon and South Dakota in 2015. Yet last year, Capital One opened a new customer-service and technical-support office in the Philippines, creating 2,000 call-center jobs. Today, Capital One employs 4,800 call-center workers in a country that had no call centers at all just four years ago.
With 2.5 million people employed at call centers in the United States, employees in the sector face an existential crisis as companies close down one center after the other. While the corporate officials may say they are bowing to pressures from consumers, many of these companies decide to lay off American workers and hire less-expensive foreign workers in countries like the Philippines.
Wells Fargo, who earlier this week laid off hundreds of employees at a call center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, also has shifted jobs to the Philippines. The company has laid off hundreds of American call-center employees over the last decade, even as the company expands their call-center hiring in the Philippines (which assists U.S. customers).
Tim Sloan, the CEO of Wells Fargo, effectively admitted to offshoring jobs during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in early October.
…Organized labor has been fighting corporate offshoring of call-center jobs for years. …The Communications Workers of America, which represents most unionized call-center workers, has had some success. In 2016, striking Verizon workers represented by the CWA stayed on the picket line until Verizon made wage concessions and promised that 1,300 new call-center jobs would be created in the United States. Shane Larson, a CWA spokesman, described the Verizon strike as a “huge win.”
“We kept good jobs in the U.S. and brought back previously offshored jobs,” he said. US Airways, also under pressure from CWA, closed the last of their Filipino call centers in 2011, a process that began in 2004 after a labor dispute.