Saturday 1 October 2016

'999' workers complain they're only allowed seven minutes for toilet breaks

Claim they are treated like schoolkids

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Published 26/01/2016 | 17:25

File photo
File photo

MORE than 60 ‘999’ call centre workers claim they are being treated like schoolchildren after their employer informed them they have to ask permission to go to the toilet.

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They claim Conduit’s new toilet break policy polices them to the extent that they have to report to management before and after their visits to the bathroom.

They say they are only allowed seven minutes for a toilet break and must seek permission from management if they need more time.

In addition, only one operator is allowed to take a toilet break at any one time across its three call centres in Ballyshannon, Navan, and Clontarf.

Every worker is also prohibited from using the toilet for an hour of each working day, which consists of a half hour at each end of their shift.

Ian McArdle of the Communications Workers Union said the policy is particularly hard on one worker who is pregnant, and needs to use the toilet regularly, and another staff member who has prostate issues.

He said the emergency call workers have been threatened with severe disciplinary action if they exceed permitted toilet breaks.

The union representative said the allocated time for toilet breaks is 19 minutes for a 12-hour shift.

He said staff believe the new system is “grotesque, disgusting and insulting to a group of adults who work hard to help save lives by answering 999 calls”.

The workers were told about the “micromanaged” toilet policy just hours after revealing they would ballot for industrial action up to a strike last week over their pay and conditions, he said.

He said the policy is being seen as an act of retaliation by a management regime that “refuses to respect employees”.

The union’s General Secretary, Steve Fitzpatrick said the oppressive policy was a gross insult to staff, who do a very stressful job. “The CWU has come across some strange and bizarre policies at call centres over the years but this one takes the biscuit,” he said.

“Workers that play such a central role in directing people to save lives are entitled to respect and dignity at their workplace.”

The workers deal with all 999 calls. The service was tendered by the Department of Communications six years ago, with the contract valued at €55m.

BT Ireland won the contract and subcontracted the service to Conduit.

A BT spokesperson said: “BT cannot comment on behalf of a third party supplier, but understands that a general policy update was communicated to operators before CWU issued a press statement regarding a ballot for industrial action."

Conduit Global has issued a statement tonight: “Conduit Global notes that in periods of industrial action, allegations can be made in which the facts are not always evident, or are done to target emotions.  We are committed to a positive work environment and an open dialogue with our employees to meet their needs and those of the customers and citizens we serve. We continuously review policies and practices to uphold that and will continue to do so going forward.”

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