News : Council Accused of Spreading ‘Tissue of Lies' Over Staff Toilet Breaks Row
Plymouth City, UK, July 21, 2015 -- A ‘ludicrous’ row over council workers’ toilet breaks rumbles on, with union leaders accusing bosses of spreading "a tissue of lies".
Call centre staff at Plymouth City Council have been told the time they spend taking comfort breaks is "excessive" and "far beyond acceptable levels", with some apparently taking more than an hour a day.
GMB regional officer Tony Dowling says the council may be at risk of breaching the Equalities Act around gender discrimination and disability by claiming staff are spending too long in the bathroom.
In a statement headed ‘Time off in loo is a tissue of lies’, Mr Dowling said: "These comments and assertions are both as unfortunate as they are untrue, but they gain traction with some members of the public.
"Where is the evidence? Our members deny that this is a prevalent issue.
"It was clear from last year’s acrimonious negotiations around customer services that changes were coming, but they were based on a series of very flawed arguments and rationale, although we do not dispute the economic reasoning for change.
"It was also clear that in the initial discussions with the unions at the end of 2014 Plymouth City Council were being less than honest to us or our members, and that unfortunate trend is continuing into this issue.
"We will be writing to our members at the end of this week seeking their views and to ascertain if there is a determination on their part to challenge these ludicrous comments.
"We will then write to Tracey Lee, the chief executive of the council, demanding to see evidence of these complaints.
"Many people have medical or cyclical reasons for needing a comfort break and there should be no interference or monitoring of that process.
"I note that during the negotiations in 2014 Plymouth City Council praised the work, effort and commitment of its customer service employees. What has changed?
"There is no advantage to turning comfort breaks in to discomfort breaks and demoralising staff even further than they already are."
A council spokesman said: "No-one has been asked not to take ‘comfort’ breaks, nor has anyone been stopped from taking these breaks.
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"We have asked our customer services staff to follow the same rules about breaks to ensure there is appropriate cover for the service and to make sure everyone is treated fairly.
"As part of our continuing efforts to improve the service for our customers, we have reissued guidance to our call centre staff so that they are clear about when they can take breaks.
"All full-time staff in customer services are paid for two ten-minute breaks each day as well as their allocated lunch break.
"This is decided via a personal preference from 30 minutes to up to an hour."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Plymouth City Council:
Plymouth City Council is the unitary authority for Plymouth, Devon. It has traditionally been controlled by Labour and the Conservatives, with Liberal Democrats rarely winning seats upon the council. It meets in Plymouth Guildhall in Plymouth City Centre.
Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2015
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