Tuesday 23 May 2017

Workers at 999 emergency call centre go on strike for 12 hours

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Stock picture
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

Workers at one of the State's three 999 emergency call centres will down tools for 12 hours today in a row over pay, working conditions and trade union recognition.

The Communications Workers' Union (CWU), which represents the call centre workers, confirmed the industrial action would take place between 8am and 8pm at the Navan call centre in Co Meath.

Centres in Dublin and Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, are expected to operate as normal and take excess calls from Navan.

"In limiting the industrial action to just one of the three call centres, members of the CWU have taken measures to ensure that this industrial action does not impact on vital emergency call answering services and services to the public from front line responders," a CWU spokesperson said.

Conduit Global, the company that operates the 999 emergency call service, said it was "very disappointed" that the union was going ahead with the strike despite what it called "significant progress" in engagements with staff in recent weeks.

The contract for the emergency call answering service was awarded to BT Ireland in 2009 by the Department of Communications. The telecoms giant then outsourced the work to Texan firm Conduit Global.

Both companies refuse to negotiate with unions over rows surrounding toilet breaks, what workers see as 'punitive' suspension methods and the introduction of an €11.50 per hour rate of pay.

Commenting on the action, CWU general secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said: "The CWU has been clear from the outset that we remain open to talks with BT/Conduit to address our members' demands, including their right to dignity and respect at their workplace.

"BT/Conduit have responded with a calculated and insincere love bombing of their workers with loads of one-to-one chats and group therapy but absolutely nothing that addresses the claims at the heart of this dispute. Regrettably, the work stoppage will go ahead.

"Unsurprisingly, the companies that brought us the toilet break policy seem to be incapable of comprehending demands for basic respect, a living wage and the freedom of workers to choose who should represent them."

In a bid to reassure the public, a spokesperson for BT/Conduit said all call centres would be open and operational today.

"All three emergency call handling service centres will be open and operational, and in addition, we are activating a fourth centre to give us flexibility," the spokesperson said.

"There are a number of operators from Conduit Global rostered to handle emergency calls in the Navan centre from 8am to 8pm today and they're encouraged to come into work as normal... As part of our contingency plan, we have additional trained employees in place to handle calls to 999 and 112 efficiently and effectively."

Irish Independent

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