Emergency Call Service contract award to BT Ireland sends out disturbing message on Government’s commitment to the rights of workers

07 Nov 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017 - The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) has described the decision to award the contract for delivering the national 999 emergency call answering service (ECAS) to BT Ireland as “anti-worker” and “rewarding bad behaviour”.
BT Ireland was awarded the lucrative €50million contract by the Department of Communications despite its disastrous record on respecting workers’ rights. The contract was previously outsourced to another anti-union company, Conduit Global with BT Ireland.
CWU members working in the ECAS staged two strikes last year in pursuit of a Living Wage and the right to trade union representation. In the run up to these strikes, BT/Conduit management introduced the infamous ‘toilet policy’ which policed how long 999 operators could spend in the bathroom. If workers spent too long in the bathroom, they were threatened with disciplinary action. In the face of determined action by ECAS workers and the CWU against the ‘toilet policy’, BT/Conduit backed down from their unacceptable policing of toilet breaks. However, BT/Conduit Global have continued to refuse to pay the Living Wage or respect their employees’ basic rights to collective bargain and trade union representation.

BT/Conduit Global were invited to Leinster House to meet a cross party group of 27 TDs to discuss the dispute. However, despite profiting from a significant state contract, BT/Conduit Global refused to meet with the elected representatives.
CWU general secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said the decision to award the ECAS contract to BT “effectively condones paying poverty wages and the denial of workers’ trade union rights”.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said: “BT Ireland is a company that feels it should be accountable to no one, whether it’s their own workers who want to be represented by a trade union or the elected political representative of this state. This is a company that saw it as reasonable to demand workers seek permission to use the bathroom and report back to management afterwards. This is a company that refuses to pay a Living Wage to workers who deliver a vital front-line public service. For the Government to award this contract to BT Ireland for a second time condones and endorses these unacceptable workplace practices.
It also sends out a broader and disturbing message to those businesses that disregard even the basic rights of workers that there will be no long term consequences from the State in awarding lucrative contracts for oppressive workplace practices.”

He said: “The Government and Minister Naughten need to examine the circumstances around BT’s operation of the ECAS contract and the behaviour of BT and Conduit in its treatment 999 service workers over the term of the last contract.”
For reference, issued by Cunningham Devin Communications. Media queries to:
Jim Devlin, e. jim@cunninghamdevlin.ie;  m. 087 2631057