News : Union to Challenge Plymouth City Council Over Staff Toilet Breaks
Plymouth City, UK, July 14, 2015 -- A union is preparing to challenge Plymouth City Council over restrictions placed on workers’ toilet breaks.
Call centre staff at Plymouth City Council have been told the time they spend taking comfort breaks is "excessive" and "far beyond acceptable levels".
Bosses believe they are losing "several days of productivity per person" every month, and have issued a fresh warning to employees.
But Tony Dowling, of the GMB union, said he was "disappointed" with the ruling.
"It shows very little concern for workers who may have personal needs and requirements," Mr Dowling said.
"We will be writing to the council expressing these concerns in the strongest possible terms and liaising with our members who may well believe that this is unwarranted behaviour.
"It is not often we hear comments like this, even with less enlightened employers."
Last week The Herald reported that workers have been told to limit themselves to two ten-minute breaks each day, plus an hour for lunch.
Now an internal round-robin e-mail has emerged, sent by a senior member of the council’s customer services management team.
It says: "Comfort breaks will continue to be available for all staff.
"However, the current usage of this code is far beyond acceptable levels and is excessive across both the contact centre and the Civic Centre telephony team, with some staff members regularly exceeding an hour a day.
"When this is totalled up over the course of the month we are losing several days of productivity per person and this is without including the normal break time.
"We must ensure that this service offers real ‘value’ to the organisation and our customers and the total amount of ‘comfort’ time is currently unsustainable."
The council requires call centre staff to log in and out of their IT systems using codes such as ‘admin’, ‘break’, ‘comfort break’ and ‘other’.
Regarding toilet trips, the internal e-mail says staff should "only be going into this state if you cannot wait for your break time."
It adds: "New George Street staff are only able to prepare and consume a hot drink during their designated break time and this must be consistent across the front-facing customer service team.
"You should discuss any health/sensitive issues with your team leader so they can continue to support you in the workplace."
A PCC spokesman said: "No-one has been asked not to take ‘comfort’ breaks, nor has anyone been stopped from taking these breaks.
"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 15, 2015