Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Shawarma For Your Conscience: My Apology To Telus

"Please read this document carefully and make it an integral part of the way you conduct business at Telus"
-Darren Entwistle, from the Ambergris Solutions (Manila) "Telus Ethics Policy"

I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong.

All along I've been telling you that employees at Ambergris Solutions -- the Manila call centre where Telus is sending its jobs now -- is a slave pit where employees only earn $15 a day. Since Telus is now preparing to buy Bell and welcome thousands more Canadians into their employment, I thought it would be fair to let all you Bell employees out there that Telus is not going to replace you with slaves from overseas.

I've done some research. Details on work at Ambergris are painfully hard to come by. Apparently all Ambergris employees are sworn to secrecy. So my apologies for quoting rumours instead of facts.

Fortunately, I was able to find this article at about the place.

Apparently the "all Canadian" telecom world Telus envisions is run by a guy name Tim Lavin (from Austin, Texas), where recent college grads are actually starting out at $218 to $273 US per month... which actually works out (based on an 8 hour day, 5 days a week) to $1.36 to $1.71 US per day for midnight-shift work.

...Someone wanna check my math on this...?

Thank God that Jack Tuason, a founder and director of the place, assures us that "We are not running a sweatshop here."

According to this, keeping a slave in the Americas in the 1860s cost around $50 per year. So whatever you want to call the economic exploitation of Filipinos... at least they aren't slaves.

But here's where things get confusing. You see, the Philippines has minimum-wage laws just like we do here. That wage changes depending on which part of the country you're in. Ambergris is in a section where the minimum wage would pay a whopping 276.50 Filipino pesos a day. That works out to about 6 bucks a day Canadian. So, either Manila has a shortened work day that would be the envy of Finland or Sweden, or the Philippines is (like Canada) one of those places where you can sign someone up to work for less-than-minimum per hour by calling it a "salary."

Either way, though, I guess it isn't slavery. Technically. And calling the place a "slave pit" is clearly out to lunch. According to their web site, employees there enjoy "'town hall meetings' with exciting themes, like the ambergris idol, coffee talks with senior management, regular team outings, civic-oriented events, fun Friday treats, project opportunities, social events, including bazaars and shawarma nights, the ambergris newsletter, special guests (like masseuses, fortune tellers, and more) leadership development training, friendly team competitions, [and] career development counseling."

Actual slavery, so far as I know, never involved Shawarma Nights.

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