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,
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.
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.
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.