T-Mobile U.S., in the wake of record growth, has garnered the ire of the Communications Workers of America union and the U.S. National Labor Relations Board and Deutsche Telekom is feeling the heat from it. T-Mobile was found guilty in two accusations by the board of illegal work practices. In particular, it was found that call center employees are not allowed to discuss their working conditions with the media, employees cannot disclose their compensation to one another and internal investigations are strictly confidential and limited to the employee in question and management. All of these practices supposedly violate U.S. National Labor Relations Board, but T-Mobile said that “T-Mobile’s approach to confidentiality is consistent with the National Labor Relations Board’s own investigation manual.”
Communications Workers of America documented a few particularly shocking cases where call center workers were verbally abused, under-performing sales employees were given “dunce” caps and a pregnant call center employee was kept from taking bathroom breaks, presumably due to the frequency and length of bathroom visits that comes with being pregnant. Deutsche Telekom stepped in to defend T-Mobile, calling these “isolated incidents”. The writing is on the wall, with one particular call center in Wichita, KS having a staggering 74 percent turnover rate and the Communications Workers of America claiming to have documented tons of other incidents. T-Mobile U.S. declined to comment on any individual cases, making it impossible to determine if the management figures behind these decisions had been appropriately disciplined or if steps had even been taken to prevent this sort of thing happening again or elsewhere.
T-Mobile U.S. is being pressured by various private and government elements, but after a letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel drafted by 25 members of the U.S. congress, Deutsche Telekom is catching flak from the U.S. and German governments and regulatory boards as well as their own investors. German trade union Verdi has even put a petition on the German Parliament’s website demanding that T-Mobile’s workers have their rights respected, which has reached 50,000 signatures. Some of Deutsche Telekom’s biggest shareholders, including APG Asset Management at .15 percent and Norges Bank Investment Management at 1.6 percent, have not taken kindly to this news and in some cases have even made implied threats to take their investment business elsewhere if proper action is not taken. The German government controls 30 percent of Deutsche Telekom, which means they hold a majority share. Essentially, this means the pressure is on and, if fixes are not made, it’s only a matter of time before lawmakers and governments step in and things get ugly for T-Mobile U.S. and Deutsche Telekom.