August 2015        

Maria’s story (continued)

Readers may recall “One woman’s experience of Job Bridge” from the November 2014 issue

I have a new job, working in a call centre. They recommend that we come to work fifteen minutes before every shift, so we can clock in and have our computer turned on, ready for action.
     They monitor our calls, listening to our responses from their customers, some of whom will pay the business €7 a call or more. Before going to the toilet I activate the “unavailable” icon, letting the supervisor know that I’m leaving the desk.
     Once she approached me as I returned from a break: “Maria, you’re late back from your break.” I was taken aback by the remark. I’m old enough to be her mother—some twenty years in the difference. I lean towards her and whisper, “Sorry, but I need to go to my locker, as I have my period.” The admission doesn’t faze her. “But you’re already late back from your break,” she repeats.
     Because of the pressure and surveillance, a colleague of mine put her coat on one day: her menstruation was so heavy that she was conscious of how she might look. I could see her shame, tears streaming down her face. Our eyes met. All for €9 an hour. Is it worth it?
     Sometimes it can be funny to listen in to the youngsters talking about their nights out, as one of the “older” staff members in the office. The subject of conversation, however, often revolves around these young parents securing a childminder while at work or among friends.
     The supervisor feels like our tormentor. “Is she human, or is she just damn good at her job?” joked a colleague. These lookouts are nonetheless under an illusion of power. There is little separating them from the rest of us, dismissed in minutes and replaced by an even more robotic character.

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