Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

No Call for Action? Why There Is No Union (Yet) in Philippine Call Centers

Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

No Call for Action? Why There Is No Union (Yet) in Philippine Call Centers

Article excerpt

This contribution presents findings from a qualitative study which focused on young urban professionals in the Philippines who work(ed) in international call centers - workplaces usually characterized by job insecurity and other forms of precarity, factory-like working conditions, and disembeddedness. Nevertheless, trade unions in these centers have not come into existence. Why collective action is not chosen by call center agents as an option to tackle the above mentioned problems - this is what the research project this article is based on tried to understand. After outlining some work related problems identified by Filipino call center agents, the article will focus on the strategies the agents employ to counter these problems (mainly accommodation and everyday resistance). By highlighting five objective and five subjective reasons (or reasons by circumstances and reasons by framing), we conclude that it is not repressive regulation policies, but rather the formative power and the internalization of discourses of rule within individual life strategies that are preventing the establishment of unions and other collective action structures.

Keywords: Call Centers; Coping Strategies; Everyday Resistance; Philippines; Precarity

Der folgende Beitrag präsentiert die Ergebnisse einer qualitativen Studie unter jungen Berufstätigen, die in internationalen Callcentern im städtischen Raum in den Philippinen arbeite(te)n - an Arbeits- plätzen, die gewöhnlich durch hohe Jobunsicherheit und andere Formen der Prekarität, wie fabrik- ähnliche Arbeitsbedingungen und Entbettung charakterisiert sind. Trotzdem wurden bis dato keine Gewerkschaften in den Call Centers gegründet. Warum kollektives Handeln unter Arbeiterinnen in Callcentern nicht als Option für die Lösung der oben genannten Probleme identifiziert wird, stellt die leitende Frage der Untersuchung dar, auf der der folgende Artikel aufbaut. Nach der Skizzierung ei- niger arbeitsgebundener Probleme, die von philippinischen Arbeiterinnen in Callcentern identifiziert werden, fokussiert der Artikel auf ihre Strategien, diesen Problemen zu begegnen (hauptsächlich mittels Anpassung und Formen alltäglichen Widerstands). Indem wir fünf objektive (umstandsgebun- dene) und fünf subjektive (framing-gebundene) Ursachen hervorheben, kommen wir zu demSchluss, dass nicht repressive Regulierungen, sondern die formative Macht und Internalisierung von Regeln innerhalb einzelner Lebensstrategien die Entstehung von Gewerkschaften und anderen Strukturen kollektiven Handelns verhindern.

Schlagworte: Bewältigungsstrategien; Callcenter; Philippinen; Prekarität; alltäglicher Widerstand

Introduction

Are the unorganized organizable? This question haunts sociologists as well as activists in Europe nowadays. Especially social uncertainty (precarity) of life paths and working conditions seem to aggravate this dilemma. Bourdieu (1998) and Dörre (2006) are just two out of many who believe that precarity discourages collective political protest and that the lack of biographical perspectives caused by precarity (allegedly) leads to despair and depression.

Also in the Philippines, activists are concerned that young urban professionals do not organize themselves and often accuse them of being politically disengaged. Agents in International Call Centers, which nowadays offer employment to hundreds of thousands of well-educated young people, are specifically highlighted in this con- cern. In this case, however, reactions of despair to a precarious life are not evident, or at least not among the young urban professionals interviewed in this study. Three out of four respondents (of altogether a total of 40 participants) claimed that they have "clear life plans"; four out of five strongly disagreed with the statement that "when a person is born, how things are going to work out for him/her is already decided"; and the same number likewise strongly disagreed with the statement that "seeing the way things are, I find it hard to be hopeful for the world". …

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