The inadequasy of taking an IR approach to an ostensibly health and safety issue, was perfectly exemplified with Motion 17 at yesterday's CWU T&FS constituency conference. The further complication of agreeing bonus schemes which in effect encourage workers in call centres to reduce or completely ignore DSE rest break requirements and lunch breaks; exacerbates the health & safety risks associated with DSE and Telephony work.
For the last 20 years, BT's abuse of the DSE Regulations has resulted in stress and MSDs being the two major issues in the company's call centres.
It is no surprise that both these issues are the two top health and safety issues in UK's workplaces according to the HSE. But there is also the risk of DVT (deep vien phrombosis i.e. blood clots) following prolonged seating at workstations. Ignoring the DSE Regulations requirement for 'rest breaks before the onset of fatigue' and taking away the individual's ability to move from their seated position accordingly, hightens this risk as well as sustaining the high l;evels of MSDs in the call centre industry.
The failure of the IR approach to the issue of rest breaks from intensive screens and keyboard work and attendance scheduling and meal breaks which are both consistently dismissive of the needs of people as opposed to machines, continues unabated. This despite agreement upon agreement between BT Resourcing and CWU IR officials, which BT continues to break.
Full cognisance of the DSE Regulations are not being met on a day to day basis by local BT management and resourcing.
The terms of Motion 17 submitted to the agenda by Mersey Branch; are very clear and will be most welcome to CWU members working in BT Call centres:
"Conference is concerned with the management approach
being applied towards our members when DSE/Meal breaks are being taken
within BT Consumer.
When members have been delayed on a call they are repeatedly encouraged to
take only part of their scheduled break or not take this at all for the fear of
adherence targets. Members frequently act upon this encouragement as failure to
achieve the adherence target is also bonus affecting.
This places undue and
inappropriate pressure on our members and causes extended sit times, outside
the Display Screen Equipment break arrangements and potentially falling outside
the DSE Regulations.
Conference instructs the T&FSE to enter into negotiations with BT Consumer to
ensure First Line Managers ‘slide’ scheduled DSE/Meal Breaks when an individual
is genuinely delayed to ensure they get their full DSE/Meal breaks and protect
The motion was moved by first time speaker at conference on behalf of Mersey Branch, Caroline Gillies:
"Conference this is a really simple motion which I hope you call all support.
You would think that any reasonable employer would actively encourage their staff to take regular breaks away from their screens.
I myself was an on-line advisor up until 2 years ago and whilst in that role I personally witnessed and was encouraged not to take my DSE breaks or only take part of these for fear of affecting my adherence target.
Our members are being informed by management that adherence is a call control behaviour that they need to self-manage, this maybe the case however the only way in which they are able to do this is either by cutting the call short which in turn impact the quality of service they provide or by placing themselves in the not ready status a couple of minutes before there breaks begin but by doing this they run the risk of a potential disciplinary hearing for call avoidance.
It’s an everyday occurrence that a call will run over into DSE breaks, lunch times and even finish times.
Our members are professional. They don’t disconnect the customer even though the call runs into their break times and lets not forget when this does happen our workforce 2020 members won’t be paid for this.
Every study shows that workers who take proper breaks away from their screen are move productive, happier and fitter
BUT WHAT DO BT DO ???
Target their employees with adherence which hits them both in their pocket by linking adherence to bonus and then later on in performance management. Right now, advisors are being asked to sign documents for when they have failed to achieve adherence without management exploring the reason’s to why this has happened.
All we ask for is professionalism to be respected by BT. Line managers should be able to slide breaks so that our members get the time they so desperately need without it impacting on their pay.
Conference please support."
Caroline is a reletaviely new Branch Officer, but nonetheless is getting to grips with this issue with an aim to change the currently unacceptable behaviour of BT's resourcing policy and with managers who treat their staff with disdain when it comes to their healtrh and safety.
The motion was carried unanimously.
For those who need further information, the Display Screen Regulations are available to download from this website's E-Library Database