Recent trends reveal a new, more disturbing facet of call center employment: members of the academic community, students, graduates, and now, even the faculty, are leaving the university to work in such agencies because of the attractive pay
BY MICAELA PAPA AND JERRIE M. ABELLA
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII. No. 26, August 5-11, 2007
Mark* was on his third cup of coffee, working the 10pm-9am shift, when one of his calls turned irate. Apparently, the American caller had picked up on the slight “Filipino” lilt in his voice and slipped into an angry tirade, accusing him and other Asians of “stealing jobs from hardworking Americans.”
Recent trends, however, reveal a new, more disturbing facet of call center employment: members of the academic community, students, graduates, and now, even the faculty, are leaving the university to work in such agencies because of the attractive pay. The development of a call center in the UP North S&T Park is a concrete manifestation of the intrusion of call centers into the academe.
The teacher is out
Prof. Erwin Bautista, former chair of the Department of European Languages (DEL) and himself a call center employee, gives a simple explanation. “ The financial compensation is very attractive. What you receive outside, you will not get from the university.”
While Bautista acknowledges that being a UP professor carries with it many perks, such as research opportunities and an intellectually conducive ambience, he asserts that the institution’s inability to provide for their basic needs frustrates even the most committed educators.
According to Bautista, the salaries they receive are based on the languages they can fluently speak.
“A colleague of ours…just resigned last May. She was an instructor here, so an instructor gets [around] P11,000 ($239 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.84). Aside from English, she knows French and Spanish, so the offer [from a call center company] was between P50,000 ($1,090) and P60,000 ($1,308).
‘ Yung 11,000, hindi ‘yon Instructor 1, parang Instructor 3,” (The P11,000 I was referring to is not even for those in the level of Instructor 1 but Instructor 3.) he said. Bautista, who was an Associate Professor (AP) in DEL, said the salary received even by tenured faculty in UP pales in comparison to the pay offered by call centers. “Magkano lang ba ang [AP], ang liit-liit, P23,000 ($501) gross, may tax pa ‘yan. How many years have I been in UP, 20? ‘ Yung P23,000 ($501), starting salary lang ‘yun sa [call center].”(How much is the salary of an associate professor? It is a mere P23, 000 or $501 gross without tax deductions yet. How many years have I been in UP before I reached this level? 20 years. The P23, 000 or $501 I am receiving now is just the starting salary in call centers.)
Bautista added that the swift career growth in a call center – an entry-level agent, for example, can apply for a supervisory position in just six months – is another attraction.
Formerly a customer service representative, Bautista now trains new recruits for the same company while on leave from the university.
The primary attraction of the Philippines as an outsourcing hub is cheap labor – companies served by call centers pay in dollars, and the measly wage of $6-$10 a night, given the high peso-to-dollar exchange rate, is an offer too good for most Filipinos to pass up. This, however, remains a far cry from the wages received by their American counterparts, which are around 80 percent higher.