Call center workers under attack by bedbugs

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The phone center iQor in Depew has bedbugs. Now, so do many of their workers who might not have had them before, and if they do, the company says they have to pay exterminators themselves to have the tiny bloodsuckers removed from their homes.

The infestation started back in about June, according to Charles Everhart who works for iQor.

“Once we started work it was about two weeks in, we heard someone say, ‘bedbugs’, and then there was ‘fleas’,” Everhart said.

iQor is an international outsourcing and collections firm, which just moved its home base from New York City to St. Petersburg, Florida, last year. Depew is one of several iQor offices around the world.

Initially, Everhart said, the bedbugs were confined to a small area, “When employees were being bitten, it was affecting one area, then it spread. It just didn’t spread, people were taking them home.”

The company’s answer to the infestation, Everhart said, was requiring workers to take time off to hire a pest control company to inspect their homes. If their home passed inspection, they were okay, if they failed, the worker has to pay hundreds of dollars to have their home fumigated.

“You were not allowed to come back to work until it was cleared; until you got a clean bill of health. There are employees that are out of work, right now, not being paid because they were infected by bedbugs they picked up at the job,” he said.

Bedbugs turn up at call centers and other public buildings more often than you might think, but it is the way iQor is trying to eliminate the pests that is raising questions.

In June, 2012 a bedbug turned up in the Fidelis office building at the Crosspoint office park in Amherst, and the problem was solved quickly.

Last month a citizens information call center in Philadelphia City Hall was closed temporarily due to a bedbug infestation, and the workers were sent home so the offices could be fumigated safely.

Back during the summer, the call center for the Allegheny County emergency services in Pittsburgh, PA was moved temporarily to another building to allow safe treatment of a bedbug infestation. Four public libraries in the San Francisco Bay Area have been closed temporarily due to bedbugs.

Everhart said iQor officials have removed half of the carpeting at the Depew call center, but left the other half intact. Other possible homes for bedbugs have also been kept, such as their cloth-covered desk chairs. “We sit in cubicles that have the cloth walls. It was stated that they could hide anywhere, in the cracks of the chairs. I could pick one up tomorrow if I go there.”

Call 4 Action made calls to iQor’s phone center in Depew, and their headquarters in Florida, and so far the calls have not been returned.

The company did bring in a pest control firm to fumigate the offices on Dick Road, but they were written up by OSHA because they conducted the fumigation while the workers were still in the office.

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