Row as emergency call staff see toilet breaks slashed

Union says call operators must seek permission for bathroom breaks over seven minutes

Staff operating the 999 emergency call service have been told they must report to management before and after taking toilet breaks, a trade union has claimed. File photograph: Getty Images

Staff operating the 999 emergency call service have been told they must report to management before and after taking toilet breaks, a trade union has claimed. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Staff operating the 999 emergency call service have been told they must take no longer than seven minutes for toilet breaks, their trade union has claimed.

The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) said a new policy put in place for emergency call operators also required staff to report management before and after taking toilet breaks.

The union said that if emergency call operators required more time in the toilet they had to seek permission from line management under the new rules.

The CWU also maintained that staff were banned from taking toilet breaks for the first half hour immediately after clocking in and during the the last half hour immediately before they clocked out.

The emergency call 999 service operates from three BT/Conduit sites at Eastpoint (Clontarf), Navan and Ballyshannon.

The contract for the emergency call answering service (ECAS) was awarded to BT Ireland in 2009 by the Department of Communications. BT then outsourced the work to Conduit Global.

Last week staff operating the service announced they were planning to ballot for industrial action in a row over pay and conditions.

The CWU said the introduction of the new “toilet break policy” had been interpreted “as an act of retaliation by a management regime that refuses to respect employees”.

BT Ireland indicated the new policy was not linked to the ballot for industrial action.

A spokeswoman 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 on the 22nd January regarding a ballot for industrial action”

A spokesman for Conduit Global did not comment on the specific issue raised by the CWU regarding the new toilet break policy.

Declan Maguire, general manager of EU operations and client services at Conduit Global said: “We are proud of the role we play in delivering this critical emergency call handling service and at all times need to deliver it to the very highest standards that are expected by the public.”

The CWU said emergency call workers had “been threatened with severe disciplinary action if they exceeded permitted toilet breaks, which the new policy has set as 19 minutes for a 12-hour shift.