A report in TIME magazine has exposed the gut-wrenching experiences and alarming treatment of workers moderating TikTok videos for global contact centre giant Teleperformance in Colombia. Workers say they are exposed to child sexual abuse, murder, cannibalism and extreme animal cruelty.
Yuli Higuera is President of UNI Global Union affiliate, Utraclaro, which represents Teleperformance workers in Colombia. The union is fighting to improve working conditions at the company, like those described in this new investigation. However, Teleperformance has repeatedly used anti-union tactics against worker organizing, including a baseless court challenge against Utraclaro.
“Many of the content moderators are isolated, working from home and watching up to a thousand videos a day. Very often they are exposed to disturbing and graphic content. These workers have inadequate emotional support, and too often their calls to the company for help go unanswered. Teleperformance must do more to make sure these workers get the psychological care and breaks they need. Instead of spending time, money and resources trying to block our union, Teleperformance should drop its opposition to the union and start cooperating with Utraclaro to resolve workers’ concerns,” said Higuera.
This month, United States Congressional representatives from the Ways and Means Committee on a mission to Colombia found that trade unionists face grave threats to organizing and “the workers for Teleperformance call centers…struggle with concerning working conditions and no job security.”
Last year, the French National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises issued strong recommendations for Teleperformance to correct its behaviour across its global operations. The NCP pointed to incidences in Colombia where workers who organized a union were told not to return to work – but paid until the end their contracts which ended several months later, as well as the firing of union leaders for staging a walk out during the pandemic over unsafe conditions. Consequently, the NCP found Teleperformance actions in Colombia were “contrary to the freedom of association of workers, as recommended by the OECD Guidelines, thus akin to anti-union practices.”
This is not the first time the conditions for content moderators for Teleperformance have come under scrutiny. Business Insider just published the stress and abuse Teleperformance’s workers on the Meta account face. Earlier this year, a report by Forbes found that Teleperformance moderators for TikTok in the United States were being trained using graphic images of sexual abuse. In 2019, an investigation by Greek newspaper Kathimernini revealed the toll on Teleperformance workers moderating content for Facebook who are exposed to violent and extreme content over and over again.
Christy Hoffman, UNI Global Union, General Secretary, said:
“In Colombia, and all over the world, Teleperformance is pushing content moderators to their mental and physical limits. Not only are they having to watch horrific content on a regular basis, they’re also under intense pressure from Teleperformance’s own monitoring systems to view as much content as possible per shift. Teleperformance must do better, but it has refused to work with unions nationally and on a global level to fix deep-seated failures in how it treats employees. These workers are human beings, who are not immune to what they witness.”
A report by PIRC in March this year found that Teleperformance had a staggering staff turnover rate of 90.55 per cent in 2021, with nearly the entire global workforce is replaced annually. Over three-quarters of workers quit within the year.