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Company denies making 999 operators ask permission before using toilet

The union representing emergency call staff had said they were told to take no longer than seven minutes for toilet breaks.
Jan 27th 2016, 9:49 AM 13,796 39

THE COMPANY RUNNING Ireland’s emergency call service has denied ordering operators to report to management before using the toilet.

The union representing workers said yesterday that a new policy introduced at emergency call centres in Dublin, Meath and Donegal also restricted toilet breaks to seven minutes, up to a maximum of 19 minutes per 12-hour shift.

Emergency call workers were said to have been threatened with “severe disciplinary action” if they exceed the permitted time.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) also claimed staff were banned from using the toilet for an hour of each working day.

The union said operators were informed of this policy just hours after they announced their intention to ballot for industrial action over pay, working conditions and collective bargaining rights.

The Department of Communications awarded the contract for the emergency call answering service to BT Ireland in 2009 before it was outsourced to Conduit Global.

‘Gross insult’

CWU General Secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said yesterday that union members had interpreted the move as “an act of retaliation by a management regime that refuses to respect employees”.

“It is a gross insult that BT Ireland/Conduit choose to impose oppressive policies on workers who already do a very tough and stressful job,” he said.

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

In a statement this morning, however, Conduit Global denied having restricted toilet use at the three centres.

“In periods of industrial action,” it said, “allegations can be made in which the facts are not always evident, or are done to target emotions.”

Conduit said staff were informed of a new policy on telephone use – aimed at ensuring “public safety” – on 21 January, the day before it learned that the CWU would be balloting for industrial action.

“While we monitor the number of staff available to handle emergency calls at all times, our staff have not been instructed to, nor is there any intention that they must, report to management before and after taking a toilet break,” the company added.

Read: Lecturers at the country’s institutes of technology are going on strike

Read: Hospital staff to vote on strike action over car parking charges

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Catherine Healy

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