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Outsourcing and Service Work in the New Economy: The Case of Call Centres in Mexico City

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This book examines the impact of outsourcing on workers and their employment conditions in the new economy. To do so, the call centre industry in Mexico City is analysed through a large number of in-depth interviews with workers and managers, available statistics and visits to leading firms in the sector. The case of call centres is paradigmatic as it is often seen as a flag-ship industry of the new economy, rapidly growing and subject to high pressures for costs reduction. The Mexican experience is crucially ...

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Overview

This book examines the impact of outsourcing on workers and their employment conditions in the new economy. To do so, the call centre industry in Mexico City is analysed through a large number of in-depth interviews with workers and managers, available statistics and visits to leading firms in the sector. The case of call centres is paradigmatic as it is often seen as a flag-ship industry of the new economy, rapidly growing and subject to high pressures for costs reduction. The Mexican experience is crucially relevant to understand employment conditions in a weak institutional setting where labour protection is low and business competition intense. Overall, outsourcing has gained popularity as a mechanism to deal with the uncertainty of increasingly challenging business environments. Nonetheless, the practice of outsourcing also raises important concerns. This book identifies those managerial practices which have a substantial impact on workers and their employment conditions such as: job designs; customer segmentation; non-standard contracts; intensified supervision; union avoidance; limited career opportunities; and strict social divisions in the workplace. These findings also suggest that a number of practices that were common in the 'old' economy are still dominant in the organisation of work in the twenty-first century. The book is a useful reference for scholars and students concerned with employment and labour studies, economic development, and globalisation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781443837385
  • Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Pages: 225
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jose-Luis Alvarez-Galvan holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts and a bachelor's degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He has been a Visiting Researcher at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, and has published extensively on foreign direct investment, employment and development. He currently lives in Paris where he works as a Consultant for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

Justification: outsourcing, flexibility and service work 1

The structure of this book 3

Chapter 1 Outsourcing and Service Work in the New Economy 11

1.1 Outsourcing and the blurring boundaries of the modern firm 11

1.2 New employment relationships and employment in inter-organisational settings 17

1.3 Service work and outsourcing 23

Conclusions 34

Chapter 2 Context and Methodology: The Mexican Service Economy and Selected Case Studies 39

2.1 The Mexican context: liberalisation, outsourcing and service work 39

2.2 The research design: a case study approach 55

2.3 The four organisations selected 58

2.4 The unit of analysis: accounts and job categories 62

2.5 Research methods and data collection tools: interviews and observation 66

Conclusion 69

Chapter 3 Outsourcing and Multi-employer Relationships: Problems and Challenges 71

3.1 Outsourcing: conflict and cooperation in multi-employer relationships 71

3.2 The paradox of outsourcing: the core importance of downsized workers 84

3.3 The contract for services as a competitive advantage in outsourcing 89

Conclusion 91

Chapter 4 The Organisation of Work in Multi-employer Sites: Similar Jobs but Different Experiences or the 'Visible Hand' of the Client Firm 95

4.1 The service dilemma: standardisation versus customization and the organisation of work 95

4.2 Sales 98

4.3 Customer services 103

4.4 Technical support 109

4.5 Supervisors 114

Conclusion 119

Chapter 5 Control in Multi-employer Workplaces: The Importance of Social Divisions 123

5.1 Call centres and the social geography of Mexico City 123

5.2 The importance of social networks in recruitment 130

5.3 Control, discipline and labour segregation 135

5.4 Are social divisions at work a conscious managerial strategy? 147

5.5 Workers' collective response: organised labour and the union at Technotronics 149

Conclusion 153

Chapter 6 The Boundaries of the Firm Re-established: The Experience of Managers 157

6.1 Managerial jobs in the new service economy: the case of call centre managers 157

6.2 The importance of loyalty and commitment in managerial careers 162

6.3 Alternative experiences in managerial careers 166

Conclusion 170

Conclusions 173

Narrow job designs 174

Customer segmentation 175

Supervision approach 176

Managers and organisational boundaries re-established 177

Outsourcing and Service Work in the New Economy

Union avoidance 178

Social divisions and control 179

The use of contracts for services 181

Final thoughts 182

Bibliography 185

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