The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which mandates the installation of rest facilities at workplaces, will come into effect in August 2022. The government is collecting opinions to include the implementation target and standard for installation of rest facilities in the subordinate statutes. In this regard, field workers and experts have made specific suggestions. Published in 5 episodes.
Shin Young-hye, who works from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. at a credit card company’s subcontract call center, lays down a sleeping bag on the floor of her office and rests on it. Colleagues who go to the same call center bring extra camping beds or folding recliners. Shin Young-hye explains that there are even workers who set up tents in the office space and rest in them. It is a recent phenomenon experienced by counselors who work at night to provide a space to rest at their own expense in a work space called a call center.
Many industries, such as platform, shopping, product repair, service industry, and credit card/insurance accident reception, operate call centers 24 hours a day. Rest facilities are essential for workers who work at night in call centers, but for now, it is best to prevent them from talking on the cold floor of the office.
The reason call center workers have no choice but to rest on the office floor is that there are no rest facilities at all, they are narrow, or even they are closed.
Gongju Seoul Foundation for Women and Family Gender Equality Policy Research Team, in a study of ‘Women’s Workplaces Vulnerable to Infectious Diseases (2021)’, said, “Call centers operated by consignees often do not have separate rest areas.” In the process of relocating the space under a contract with the company, there are cases in which the resting space is reduced or disappeared.” As the call center outsourcing becomes more sophisticated, the capital’s interest in reducing costs for the primary agency and increasing the interim exploitation fee for subcontractors leads to deterioration of the working environment, which makes resting facilities disappear and seats are narrowed.
However, even a narrow resting facility with mana is considerable for office workers. A subcontracted call center of a large domestic platform company has one resting facility that fills up with three or four tables for four in a center where 200 people work. At night and on weekends, garbage, such as cup noodle bowls, accumulates in trash cans in the common room to the extent that flying insects infest them. Is this a trash can or a break room?
If there is a rest facility in the call center, but workers cannot use it, it is because the company has closed it to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Until October of this year, the government’s guidelines for social distancing call centers are to wear a mask when multiple people use indoor rest facilities. In November of this year, the government reorganized social distancing into a step-by-step recovery, and deleted the rest facility-related section, conscious of the criticism that workers were treated only as infectious agents. Although it is burdensome to give a signal to use the rest facilities, it was a reorganization with the intention to prevent the guidelines from being misused as a means of controlling workers by deleting the contents of the rest facilities.
However, companies are maintaining the closure of resting facilities in call centers by overinterpreting or arbitrarily using the government guidelines. This cannot be done unless workers are not seen as people in need of rest and are treated only as a medium for mass infection that seriously disrupts business. Rest facilities are blocked so that they can rest on the office floor, vaccine leave is not guaranteed, and they wear a mask and consult throughout the day, but no additional breaks are given. The reality of call center work in the Corona 19 era is to raise concerns about infection and control workers while at the same time choosing and following only government guidelines that employers want to follow.
Office workers, including call centers, need safe and comfortable rest facilities. Although the unit area per person is set at 2 square meters or more, it is necessary to prevent a narrow resting facility with a mana and avoid the risk of infection. There should be no practical use for other purposes as fixtures and trash bins occupy a significant area of rest facilities. In order for Article 128-2 (installation of rest facilities) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to function properly, subordinate statutes such as the Enforcement Decree must not go against the purpose of the legislation. Please do not allow the creation of facilities that cannot ‘relieve workers’ physical fatigue and mental stress’.