02. Wage Deterioration in the Deregulated Telecommunications Services

Rosemary Batt and Harry C. Katz, Industrial and Labor Relations, conducted a new national study of the deregulated telecommunications services, with colleague Jeff Keefe (Rutgers University), documenting wage deterioration for workers in the industry over the last five years. The researchers found that between 1998 and 2003, real wages fell by 10 percent for the primarily female workforce in call centers—remote centers that handle customer service through technology-mediated channels. Wages for the primarily male workforce in technical occupations fell by 12 percent. At the same time, the quit rate for workers dropped by 20 percent for service and sales workers and 40 percent for technicians. Quality of jobs and working conditions deteriorated. Call center workers experienced higher call volumes, lower discretion at work, greater pressure to use scripted texts, higher electronic monitoring of their work, and fewer internal promotions. Technicians experienced substantially higher rates of electronic monitoring and fewer opportunities for internal promotion. These trends reflect the poor economic performance and insecure labor market conditions in the industry during this period.

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