I have had a couple of personal experiences working in large corporate factory type environments, one in Australia and one in the United States. The one in Australia was a canned food factory. I lasted only one day in that job. The one in the United States was a call center. It was my first job here in the winter of 2010 and I lasted five months. I use the word “lasted” deliberately because working in these sorts of environments makes you feel like you are just trying to “last”.
At the canned food factory job we had to stand all day and each worker did just one small part of the process line. The job in America required you to do every aspect of the job, including taking statistics, record keeping, sales, and technical support.
In the Australian job I experienced the pressure of short rest breaks. I got a “dirty” look from a supervisor on returning perhaps less than a minute late back to my place on the line. In the American job I experienced this same pressure. We had to clock in and out every time you left and returned to your workstation. You accumulated points which would lead to dismissal after a certain threshold number of late points.
There were a lot of non-white workers at the factory in Australia, mostly Asians. The American job had people from a wide diversity of backgrounds and age groups.
I resigned at the Australian job after one day as I couldn’t deal with standing up for the ten hour shift and I also couldn’t keep up with the process line work. It was exhausting and stressful and I just didn’t have the dexterity and speed for that sort of work. I was fortunate in that I had choices, unlike many of the workers in these jobs. The American job meant being confined to a small booth for the shift and on the phone the entire time, but it was at least it was a sitting down job.
I think the pay was about $14 per hour casual without benefits for the canned food job in Australia. The pay in America was $9 an hour.
Workers told me that the turnover in the American job was as high as 100,000 people per year. I was also told they got funding from the government to train people and it was in their interests to have people leave so they could get new replacements in and more government funding.
I found the training to be extensive for both jobs, so no problems there.
In summary, there was just a feeling of intense pressure all the time in both jobs. But I would have to say the job in America was more exploitative than the Australian one. I really do believe we have better laws in Australia to protect workers than the United States.
To my knowledge, the Australian company is still in business. The American company has been sued and is no longer operating here. But its little consolation because the building is now being used by an equally abusive corporate employer.
There just doesn’t seem to be any end to the abuse of workers that goes on in the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs around the world.