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On the line and on the edge: ASU call centre report shows stress levels off the dial

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The Australian Services Union (ASU) is today launching a national research report into Australian call centres. The research, which reports on the often unseen world of the call centre worker, reveals a fast growing industry which now employs nearly one in forty working Australians.

ASU Assistant National Secretary, Linda White today said the Union was concerned at the results of a national survey of 1,549 call centre workers (download report below). The workers indicated a range of issues, but disturbingly a significant increase in stress levels from a benchmark study of the industry in 2000.

"The report paints a picture of the people on the other end of the line. Workers dealing with an abusive caller, being over monitored, under trained, in an understaffed workplace answering the 16 million calls made to Australian call centres every day," Linda White said.

"Over 250,000 employees work in over 3,800 call centres Australia wide. The sector is one of the fastest growing areas of work and we need to ensure that it is a safe and prosperous sector of the economy," Linda White said.

The survey, conducted by Dr Ruth Barton of RMIT, reveals a range of findings, including significant levels of work related stress. A range of work issues were identified by respondents including a lack of training and support, excessive monitoring, lack of breaks and opportunities to take leave, ergonomics and concerns their jobs would go overseas.

Concerned at the issue of stress in the sector, the Union is today launching a first for Australian workers, the Stress-o-meter. Developed as an engaging and interactive tool, it allows every call centre worker to visit a website, answer stress related questions, and have their stress levels evaluated. Individuals will receive a personal recording - but the industry will also be evaluated and benchmarked.

"The research has provided clear indication of the problems, and we will be working with call centre workers and management to reduce the health risks associated with excessive stress.

"The ASU is committed to reducing stress and improving working life. Understanding the sector, and tracking stress issues are critical to achieving those goals. The Stress-o-meter is a non-threatening way to focus attention on workplace health. The Union will also gain valuable statistics and information on stress, and stress related issues," Linda White said.

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