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Xerox explained to the Lexington Herald-Leader why it only pays call center workers $10 an hour plus benefits. Xerox, with its acquisition of ACS, has 5,000 workers in Kentucky. The issue came up because Amazon announced it is opening a call center paying workers $15 an hour plus benefits.

The newspaper asked CEO Ursula Burns and COO Connie Harvey if Amazon’s wages will force Xerox to up worker pay:

Burns: …we have a business to run. We pay the market. So we’ll continue to pay to market on the jobs we have in Kentucky,

(snip)

Harvey: And we have not, at least until this point in time, had trouble finding employees. If we started having trouble finding employees, we would not be putting more jobs here. So we’ll see how it plays out.

(snip)

Q: When you say you pay “market,” what is considered market here?

Harvey: In Lexington, we usually pay $10 an hour plus benefits. And then obviously with seniority and advanced skill sets, that can increase.

(snip)

Harvey: We look at it, we’ve got to be competitive for the customer. We can give them a call center in India, we can give them a call center in Lexington, we can give them a call center in Lexington or Phoenix.

Xerox pays low wages because it has no trouble finding people to work for low wages. And if it can’t find people to work for low wages, it will go elsewhere.

“They could move those jobs to India and pay $10 a day,” said tax expert, Rochesterian and Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston. “The fundamental trend is to push U.S. wages down in a global economy.”

Xerox can run its business the way it wants. But should government continue to pay Xerox to open call centers under the guise of economic development? How does a $10-an-hour worker contribute to the economy when he can barely support himself, much less his family?

Call centers are often criticized for low wages, opening and closing quickly, having no career track for workers and having high turnover.

The comments from the Xerox executives are particularly troubling for the Rochester area as Xerox transitions into a service-based company. As Burns recently told the Democrat and Chronicle, “The thing that made Xerox ‘Xerox’ in Rochester, which was the maker of technology, will not be the exclamation point after that.”

In other words, say hello to more call center jobs and say goodbye to the thought of more engineers.

Rochester needs to make things, invent things and provide high-level services. Call centers may be good for people desperate for jobs (emphasis on may), but we cannot call them a win for our community and economy.

11 Responses to $10 an Hour

  1. May 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm Rich responds:

    Spot on. Burns could win the title of “Queen of Mean.”
    That India comment sounds like a threat.
    I agree the state needs to look harder at who should qualify for tax breaks.

  2. May 15, 2012 at 9:56 am Peking Humonculous responds:

    Totally agree!

  3. May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    Come on! That’s more than many people, including myself, make an hour. I would really love to make $10.00 an hour.

  4. May 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm Jeff responds:

    If they are fully staffed and paying people $10/hour, they clearly are paying the correct wage. If people were not applying in droves for those jobs then they would have to re-evaluate.
    The fact that they are moving higher paying jobs and replacing them with lower paying jobs is certainly troubling. Clearly we would rather have them keep both locally.
    Why is there problem with $10/hr simply because you think it is too low. There are plenty of folks who earn less.

  5. May 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm James Simons responds:

    Kudos Rachel for being a voice on this issue! What people fail to grasp is that our entire economy is being overtaken by these service jobs. They are replacing the middle class, decent wage jobs we used to have.

    As stated in the article, call center jobs are mostly dead end with little to no career advancement. While they do pay slightly better than most retail jobs, they are still not enough to live on. In addition, these jobs are typically very stressful and include working odd hours, weekends as well as holidays. Furthermore, there are many candidates for these jobs not because they are great jobs or fantastic working conditions, but because people are desperate.

    As Rachel pointed out, it is great some jobs are being created. But before the government hands out tax breaks, shouldn’t we consider what is being created?

    • May 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm Jeannine Frattali responds:

      You are so spot on!! I’ve worked call centers and even with Xerox. They are paying the same now as they did 18 years ago… pretty sad that we have been the home to some of the greatest technology innovators and we the people who do the work can barely survive on the pay. Then, the regular contracts with Xerox don’t have benefits because they’re so expensive.

  6. May 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm Mike responds:

    Corporation: We want to locate in a populated metropolitan area, with all the benefits that come with it! Infrastructure, large pool of qualified employees, decent restaurants and good schools for the managers, etc.
    Government: Great!
    Corporation: But we don’t want to pay taxes for any of that stuff! We want tax breaks! And subsidies!
    Government: We can do that.
    Corporation: And we want new infrastructure just for us. And subsidized electricity. And we don’t want to pay for training so we want community colleges to expand their offerings. And more tax credits.
    Government: OK I guess.
    Journalists and taxpayers: Is this really worth it? We’re paying them all sorts of bribes and the vast majority of these jobs don’t even pay living wages.
    Brainwashed Right Wingers: Shut up! How dare you socialists try to interfere in the operations of private enterprise! Don’t you understand the free market is king?

  7. May 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm Jamie responds:

    The Xerox call center is raking the community over twice – once in supporting it with our tax dollars and twice by profiting from that tax benefit by paying low wages – wages that are only tolerated because of an economy where people qualified to perform call center work are that desperate to take anything.

    “The fundamental trend is to push U.S. wages down in a global economy.”

    So as wages go down. Good jobs go away. College costs – the key to any remaining good job – skyrocket. How will a parent ever finance a college education on $10/hour?

    Say hello to two-class America, we aren’t going to be a first world nation for much longer at this rate.

  8. May 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm John responds:

    If Xerox can fill the jobs at $10 why should they pay more? I am guessing that these jobs are entry level and have no college degree requirements like most call center jobs. If you want to make more than $10 an hour then start there and work your way up or go to college or go to a trade school. The job pays $10 because it does not require a lot of specialized skills and many people can perform the tasks required. If they can’t fill the jobs for $10 an hour than you will see the rate go up…its supply and demand. I have five babysitters in my neighborhood that want $8-$10 an hour and thats what I pay. I am not going to pay them $15 because $8-$10 does not seem like a lot.

  9. Xerox presently owns the Xerox Tower Downtown in Rochester and it is assessed at $15 a square foot when right across the street the B&L building pays $75 a square foot. Perhaps it is time to tax the Xerox building like the Bausch building as that is “market value”. After all if market value works for wages it should also work for taxes — right Ursula?

  10. March 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    Buy low, sell high. Pay low, work high.

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