Phone bosses force salesmen to be gung-ho, says union

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 12:00am

Bosses are pressuring telecom salesmen to perform amid the residential phone line war, forcing them to mislead or deceive customers, unionists say.


They say the salesmen are often given veiled or even explicit messages that they have to get clients, regardless of what it takes.


The comments came a day after the telecommunications watchdog, Ofta, said it had received 152 complaints about misleading sales tactics.


'Telecom companies should take responsibility. They keep pressuring staff as they compete for market share,' said Terry Ip Ngok-fung, general-secretary of the Communication Workers General Union.


He said most of the city's 10,000 telecom salesmen often received formal or informal messages from senior and mid-level management saying attracting customers was the top priority, and their behaviour did not matter.


Mr Ip said low salaries meant salesmen were living on commission, forcing them to use misleading methods to lure customers.


'Their basic salaries are extremely low, about $3,000 to 4,000 a month. They have to make their living by obtaining as many customers as possible,' he said.


Fan Kwok-fai, general secretary of the Communication Industry Employees' Association, said some salesmen were not paid at all if they did not bring in customers. 'They have no basic salary,' he said, saying some salesmen even used their own money to buy incentives.


'Of course, the salesmen should be blamed for using deceptive sales tactics, but the root cause is the pressure from companies as well as the salary system,' Mr Fan said.


Garmen Chan Ka-yiu, vice-president for external affairs with i-Cable - which attracted the most complaints, 65 - said the salary structure should not be blamed.


'All salesmen are under huge pressure, but we do not tolerate any malpractice,' Mr Chan said, adding that the firm had clear guidelines, training and salary systems to safeguard staff behaviour.


'We check every contract signed by individual salesman. We will not release a commission if there is a complaint over it ... and salesmen who receive repeated complaints might be fired.'


Hutchison Global Communications, which received 42 complaints, said it had put in place a set of stringent guidelines for sales activities after cases identified by Ofta dating back to mid-2003.


'HGC does not endorse or permit misconduct of any kind among its staff,' a spokesman said.


 

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