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French firm Teleperformance to meet Colombian govt after probe

By Juliette Portala and Dina Kartit

PARIS (Reuters) -French office support provider Teleperformance said on Monday it would meet with Colombia Labor Ministry representatives this week after the country opened a probe into its work practices there.

Shares of Teleperformance, a leading provider of content moderation services for social media platforms like Tik Tok, shed more than a third of their value on Thursday on news of the investigation following media reports of harsh working conditions.

An article published last month by Time in partnership with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism quoted anonymous employees at the company in Colombia citing very low pay for working six days a week on day and night shifts, while having to watch disturbing videos including of child sexual abuse and cannibalism.

The employees said Teleperformance was imposing unrealistic performance targets and subjecting them to extensive surveillance, including at home, while offering little psychological support. Their attempts to unionize to secure better conditions have been repeatedly opposed, they said.

Forbes and other U.S. media have also reported on Teleperformance's alleged work policies when operating for Tik Tok, drawing scrutiny from two U.S. senators.

Teleperformance, with Colombia operations since 2009 and more than 41,000 employees there, said on Monday it would meet with the Labor Ministry on Wednesday to "collaboratively discuss its operations in Colombia."

"Teleperformance Colombia has reached out to the government and union, and it looks forward to a fair and open dialogue," the group said in a statement.

"As a responsible and law-abiding corporate entity, it will also fully support the authorities on any review that they would like to conduct," it said. The shares rose nearly 6% on the news.

In a call with analysts late on Monday, Bhupender Singh, president of Global Group Transformation at Teleperformance, said the company had over the past three years received 18 visits by Colombian government entities and "there has not been any material findings that we needed to be worried about."

He added the group had still to be notified of any Colombian government investigation but had launched an internal audit on the allegations.

"Any findings (of areas where) we need to improve, we will act immediately. We will not wait for the big report," he said, adding the group also wanted to carry out a more detailed audit of its content moderation operations across the globe.

Teleperformance Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Julien said he believed the group would reach an agreement with Colombia's Ultraclaro union group, which represents IT and call center workers, and that the company respected applicable laws in the United States and elsewhere.

(Additional reporting by Augustin Turpin; editing by Silvia Aloisi and Richard Chang)