01 December 1999

THOUSANDS OF BT CALL CENTRE STAFF heeded the call for a one-day national strike last month, the first in a threatened series of stoppages aimed at disrupting key customer services including sales, billing and fault reporting. Over 4,000 workers at 37 call centres nationwide were involved.

The strike - BT’s first national industrial action in thirteen years - was called by the Communication Workers Union, which complained of 'oppressive' 19th century-style management, inadequate staffing levels, excessive pressure and stress, profligate use of agency staff, and deadlines so tight that they prevent calls being answered in a professional manner. Claimed the union: 'Our members’ ability to take leave is limited; their attendance patterns are too rigid and they are subjected to performance targets deployed to intimidate them.' Admitted BT: 'There is no doubt that the call centre staff have been under pressure and workloads have increased. But we have been recruiting more people and creating more permanent BT jobs.' BT said it regretted the CWU’s decision and would attend further talks in a bid to halt the action.