Congressman Boucher, DIRECTV, and Virtual Jobs
by Lewis Loflin
Update 2019: nothing ever came of this.
August 5, 2010: In Congressman Boucher and his Call Centers we learned that most call center jobs are at the "floor" of the IT industry and "provide limited advancement and work opportunities" along with appalling low wage-scales. ($8-$9 an hour.) With the use of costly taxpayer subsidies, this enables job destroying outsourcing firms to further depress the living standards of American workers. Now outsourcing has gone to new lows.
As Congressman Rick Boucher announced on May 30, 2010 we got 100 new jobs with DIRECTV:
"I am pleased to announce that DIRECTV will operate a virtual call center in Southwest Virginia, hiring 100 of our region's residents to serve as remote agents. The virtual call center marks another major success not only for my Showcasing Southwest Virginia Program in its effort to create new jobs for our region's residents by attracting top-tier companies to the area, but also for my longstanding work to expand our region's broadband infrastructure with the goal of creating new technology jobs. The 100 new jobs announced today have been made possible by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet services in Southwest Virginia."
As Mr, Boucher tells us about these jobs the "individuals hired as remote agents will receive an average wage of $10 per hour, with the potential to earn an additional $650 per month based on performance." Sounds OK, if one can get the job and keep it. But Tim Long of the Lee County Industrial Development Authority noted these were not "technology" by any rational definition. In 2006 before the Virginia Tobacco Commission that has spent tens of millions on socialized fiber optic he notes of call center jobs in general besides low pay:
The good thing about this is this will apply to the average guy off the street, and the average person who doesn't have an education, just to get on the phone and talk to people. That sort of thing is very important for us. In Southwest Virginia we have some people that can't do certain skills, and technical skills are not really necessary for these jobs, so that's something else we look at.
And that's just what Mr. Boucher is looking at too. The other problem is the 100 jobs are not with a "top-tier" company such as DIRECTV, but "its call center partner Convergys." What the heck in Covergys? Just Google "Convergys" and layoffs reveals a great deal about this unstable outsourcing company. And this "work at home" business isn't as easy as it sounds. The worker must supply all equipment, setup a separate office, pay all phone and internet costs. In addition one must pass an internet speed test. That $10 could easily shrink back to $8.50 an hour.
The most likely reason they might hire 100 people in Southwest Virginia (Mr. Boucher's office refuses to provide confirmation the jobs really exist) was to buy his favor on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. I'll bet it's related to May 12, 2010 when the House Approved the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. Dish Network and DIRECTV get access to signals from NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, he gets a few "virtual" call center jobs.
On the plus side one saves the costs of commuting, eating out, etc. The only skills requirement is a high school diploma. In other words like any real call center job skill requirements are low and advancement limited. They do offer benefits.
Most of that information is available at Careers.convergysworkathome.com.
Note: as of 2019 their website went down years ago.
In the end the real winner is the outsourcer that doesn't even have to pay for any real infrastructure, local taxes, or have any real commitment to any community or workers it never sees. Finally, is Convergys even a reliable employer? At the same time they are supposed to be hiring 100 agents in Southwest Virginia, thousands of their other workers are getting pink slips. For the record:
CONVERGYS: When Cincinnati City Council cut a deal with Convergys Corp. in 2003 to keep its headquarters downtown, the firm got $52.2 million in aid, including $22.5 million in job-creation tax credits and $29.75 million in grants from the city (translation: free cash from taxpayers). But under the deal, Convergys must keep at least 1,400 workers downtown or pay a $1 million penalty.
Convergys has dropped below the threshold and is asking city officials to redo the deal and forego the penalty. (This is after the company reneged on a similar deal with Norwood years ago.) Meanwhile, Convergys just hired more than 3,600 employees in the Philippines, where we're sure they're making far less than comparable jobs in the Queen City.
Sorry, Convergys, but you need to pay up here. Maybe you could spend less on coming up with silly names.
Ref. www.citybeat.com. Page is down 2019.
April 24, 2009 Convergys to cut 240 jobs
Nearly half of all employees at the Convergys call centre in Kamloops (Canada) could be looking for work by the end of June.
According to Convergys officials, the company plans to lay off 240 employees, effective June 30...Last year, rumours swirled around possible closures of Convergys call centres after its CEO hinted the company might close unprofitable sites in Canada. As it turned out, its Red Deer operation was closed...
This week, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Cincinnati-based Convergys may look to break up the company this year: "Spinning off the company's struggling information management unit has been on the table for several months, but in January, CEO David Dougherty said the economic slowdown and turmoil in financial markets made it unlikely the company would split off the unit in the near-term," the newspaper reported.
"But it will be on agenda for management and the board this year as the Cincinnati-based company looks for ways to boost the value of its share, Dougherty said at its annual shareholder meeting today. "Convergys is also struggling with a recession-related drop in call volume at its call centers, said Chairman Philip Odeen."
Source: BClocalnews layofftracker.blogspot.com. Page down in 2019.
Convergys' Employees Weigh In On Pink Slips Roughly 600 Workers To Lose Jobs March 16, 2010
Ref. www.koat.com. Page down 2019.
Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp. plans to begin a "staggered reduction of employees" beginning at the end of march and continuing through the end of June 2010. Among the layoffs will be 677 employees at a call center in Albuquerque, N.M. New Mexico Business Journal reports the layoffs in Albuquerque were caused by the loss of AT&T as a customer.
Ref.www.employmentspectator.com. Page up August 2019.
Convergys Cuts 800 From Canada Call Center, Sends Work to the Philippines
January 27th, 2010 SOURCE: OTTAWA.CTV
An Ottawa customer service center is laying off 800 people, moving work to the Philippines. Convergys notified employees of the layoffs on Monday, after AT&T in the Unites States canceled a contract with the company.
Ref. www.nearshoreamericas.com. Page up 2019.
Ohio-based company Convergys announced it is closing its call center at Jefferson and Osuna in northeast Albuquerque, leaving 700 people in the area unemployed. An employee, who didn't want to be identified, says the company's problems with payroll has added insult to injury.
The employee said the company recently overpaid some people. "They're taking it back in less than four checks, $30 to $40 a pop. On top of this, they're going to be cutting hours leading up to the layoffs," he said. A corporate spokeswoman explained in an email that an unidentified client has decided to remove its program from the site and will start outsourcing.
Ref. www.kob.com. Page down 2019.
Convergys cutting 500 workers in Winnipeg December 8, 2009 CBC News
Call center operator Convergys will lay off 500 people in Winnipeg, the U.S.-based company said Tuesday. A decrease in call volumes caused by the flagging economy was cited as the reason for the reduction, which will take place in stages. Convergys is believed to have lost two major contracts, a former employee who didn't want to be identified told CBC News...A spokesperson said the layoffs are likely to be carried out through early 2010.
Ref: www.cbc.ca. Page down 2019.
January 26, 2010 Convergys Cutting Jobs
Convergys Corp announced yesterday that it will undertake a global restructuring process which will include layoffs. Convergys operates 82 call centers around the globe, and employs about 70,000. The business process outsourcing company wouldn't specify an exact number of job cuts, but said the layoffs have already begun. Locations that will see cuts were not specified. The news comes as a surprise to some as the BPO industry is expected to show significant growth in 2010, and other companies have outlined plans to increase payroll.
Ref. www.b-p-o.org. Site down 2019.
Boucher's Showcasing Southwest Virginia Program Brings 100 New Jobs to the Region (March 30, 2010)
Boucher's Showcasing Southwest Virginia Program Brings DIRECTV Virtual Call Center to the Region (Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Representative Rick Boucher announced today the creation of 100, new technology based jobs for Southwest Virginia.
"I am pleased to announce that DIRECTV will operate a virtual call center in Southwest Virginia, hiring 100 of our region's residents to serve as remote agents. The virtual call center marks another major success not only for my Showcasing Southwest Virginia Program in its effort to create new jobs for our region's residents by attracting top-tier companies to the area, but also for my longstanding work to expand our region's broadband infrastructure with the goal of creating new technology jobs. The 100 new jobs announced today have been made possible by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet services in Southwest Virginia," Boucher said.
The new virtual call center will be part of DIRECTV's Remote Agent Program, which is a growing segment of the company's customer service operations. Currently, DIRECTV employs 1,120 remote agents, representing 12 percent of the company's total call center staff. In fact, the program has proved to be so successful that DIRECTV saw a 100 percent increase in remote agent staffing last year.
Congressman Boucher brought DIRECTV to Southwest Virginia through his Showcasing Southwest Virginia Program. "My office began working with DIRECTV nearly 5 years ago when we hosted the company for a tour of several sites in the Ninth District for traditional call centers. When the need arose to expand the company's Remote Agent Program, DIRECTV remembered our region's excellent workforce, widespread broadband availability and outstanding training resources. In January, I hosted the company on another tour to explore the potential for creating a virtual call center here. We visited three regions of the Ninth Congressional District to survey the access to high-speed Internet services, the workforce and training opportunities," Boucher said.
"The tour was a tremendous success, and as a result, DIRECTV has decided to operate a virtual call center in Southwest Virginia, hiring agents from across the three regions of the Ninth District-in the aCorridor region, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority region and the New River Valley Alliance region," Boucher continued.
DIRECTV and its call center partner Convergys will begin hiring 100 qualified individuals from Southwest Virginia right away. Training will take place in April, and the new remote agents will begin taking calls in May. Agents will take calls related to billing and account management, including review of packages and pricing and account changes.
The individuals hired as remote agents will receive an average wage of $10 per hour, with the potential to earn an additional $650 per month based on performance. The agents will enjoy benefits including paid holidays and vacations; medical, dental, and vision coverage with company contribution after 60 days; basic life insurance; flexible spending accounts; tuition reimbursement; 401K with a company match; and free DIRECTV. "These are the same wages and benefits available to DIRECTV agents who are based in the company's bricks-and-mortar call centers. The remote agents, however, have the benefit of not having to travel to work or pay for related expenses such as work apparel and meals out," Boucher noted.
"The remote agents hired by DIRECTV are able to work from home due to the high-speed Internet access available in many communities throughout our region. More than 15 years ago, I began encouraging local governments throughout the Ninth District to find a means of deploying broadband networks so that affordable high-speed Internet access would be available to businesses and residents.
My goal in making this recommendation was to set our region apart in comparison to other rural areas of the nation, to make us more attractive than the typical rural region to industries looking to expand their operations into new locations and to create technology based jobs for Southwest Virginians. Today's announcement is the result of the significant strides our region has made in deploying broadband," Boucher concluded.
To quote Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file):
- Wise Virginia Call Center Won't Hire 500 New Workers
- Tobacco Commission Sykes Fiasco Reveals Government Waste
"The region has been replacing traditional (better paying) manufacturing jobs with (low paying subsidized) call center jobs, which provide limited advancement and work opportunities. Call centers represent the factory floor of the Knowledge Economy; they are an important part of a diversified economic development strategy, but the region must be careful not to rely too heavily on them, as the work is easily moved to other regions and/or other countries."
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