Always Be Closing: Experiencing and theorizing time and wage in a UK call center

Frederick Pitts

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Abstract

This article reports the author's experience of working in telesales. Through a call center, the case study company sells home improvements. The article describes the everyday organizational life of the telesales unit. Using this autoethnographic experience, the article analyses the organization of work-time
in call centers. In particular, the article probes how commission constitutes a form of piece-wage. This piece-wage assists the manipulation of working hours. It does so by masking their extension. To understand this, the article appliesthe conceptual tools of Marx’sCapital. Marx directs attention to how capitalists organise time in the pursuit of surplus-value. The autoethnographic account explores the application of this to call-center work. Flexible working arrangements and zero-hour contracts extend work-time. A pay framework based around commission and performance-linked piece-wages conceals
this.In the case study, there is an absence of technology as productivity-raising measure or means of control. This challenges existing Foucauldian approaches to call-center work. It suggests that traditional forms of capitalist domination-the contract, the wage, time organization- are highly relevant to the call center
context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-48
JournalTamara: Journal of Critical Organization Inquiry
Volume13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Keywords

  • Marx
  • Marxism
  • Call centers
  • Call centres
  • Management
  • management
  • critical management studies
  • Time
  • Work
  • Work organisation
  • Labour
  • Sociology
  • labour process

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