Barclayclard and BT named and shamed by MPs over poor working conditions during crisis

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In a damning report, MPs shared complaints from workers all over Britain about being forced into close contact with others despite the outbreak.

Many of the complaints were from those working in call centres

The damning letters formed part of an open call for letters to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee as part of the inquiry into “the impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers”.

More than 1,000 people contacted the committee, with concerns including not being offered enough support at work, or why some have been told they are essential workers.

This included employees from a series of well known companies, as well as those working at furniture stores, estate agents and law firms.

BEIS chair and Labour MP Rachel Reeves, said: “From the evidence we’ve received it’s clear that many businesses are still not doing the right thing.

“This is a health emergency – it cannot be business as usual.

“Workplaces, even those deemed ‘essential’, should be doing all they can to ensure that their workers are able to work from home or, if they do have to attend work, that they can undertake social distancing.”

It comes after Boris Johnson placed the UK into lockdown by ordering public to work at home if you can, and only go to work if its essential.

The confusing advice has led to many businesses trying to force their employees to go in anyway.

BT

In one, a furious BT call centre staffer claimed they were “shoved in like sardines”, with no option to work from home.

They said: “It’s just more people in one call centre, shoved in like sardines, possibly infecting or spreading covid19, or symptoms to the people who work in the centre that take the 999 calls.

“There has been a lot of queries within the business in regards to this, and we really need more clarification whether we are key workers or not, as these parts of the business can easily close and free more room in the centres for social distancing for key worker teams, such as faults/repairs.

“We have not had any option to work from home either.”
A BT spokesperson said: “Our priorities are to help everyone stay connected and to keep our colleagues safe. We’d like to thank everyone for their hard work at this critical time.

“Our colleagues are coming to work only if they’re healthy and able to do so. If not, we’re continuing to pay them. Our colleagues who can do their role from home are doing so.

“We’re determined to help those people who need us most, including the most vulnerable. BT is doing everything it can to protect colleagues and is following Government advice.

“We’ve increased cleaning and arranged for people to work at recommended safe distances. We’re constantly reviewing our approach to reflect changes in government advice.”

BARCLAYCARD

Barclaycard were also blasted, with an angry worker saying they were not guaranteed pay if they got sick.

They revealed: “Anyone who phones up and says a member of their family is sick with virus symptoms are not given any assurances that they won’t be penalised if they stay off and self isolate so they are coming into work.

“Call centres in general are a hotbed for disease as people share desks. If someone wants to pay their credit card they can do it online.

“If they can’t afford to pay they could put an automated message on the telephone system and on the Barclaycard website to tell them the provisions that will be made. But they are adamant they want us in to collect money.”

A Barclaycard spokesperson insisted the safety of “colleagues, customers and clients is our top priority”.

They said: “We have encouraged as many colleagues as possible to work from home and only ask people to come into the workplace when it is essential to supporting customers and clients.

“We have a range of measures in place to help protect colleagues, and incentives such as additional financial support for childcare.

“In addition, any colleagues presenting with symptoms or linked to those with symptoms are following government guidelines.”

SPORTS DIRECT

Sports Direct has shut its stores in the coronavirus lockdown, but only after sparking outrage by claiming it is “vital” for them to remain open.
A struggling worker at Sports Direct has now told MPs management were still being forced into the office and it was affecting their mental health.

They said: “They are forcing management to work in stores (my particular store has 5 members of management) daily to complete redundant tasks such as price changes and valuations.

“They have given us the option to go home and not work, but they won’t pay us a penny. We now have the choice to either protect our families or feed our families.

“Myself and my colleagues are frightened about what’s going to happen going forward and the uncertainty will undoubtedly cause major problems with our mental health – the key factor they were using as justification to keep stores open.”

SKY

Engineers at Sky also wrote in, saying they were visiting around seven homes every day to set up Sky television.

They said: “ On an average day, we visit around 7 homes per engineer to fit or service Sky TV, a luxury product not everyone is fortunate to own.

We are usually in a customer’s home for an hour, sometimes more sometimes less. It is intrusive work really.

“With a whole family home during a lockdown, it can be hard to ask them to keep their distance,especially for larger families in smaller homes. Customers also do not always respect our boundaries.

“We also have to touch a lot of things in the customers’ homes, which more often than not are dirty.”

They also told MPs customers lied about having symptoms so they could get Sky TV installed.

The engineer claimed staff were not being given proper safety equipment, and that colleagues were “scared” to speak out.

They explained: “Some engineers have been sent hand sanitiser but not all engineers. I never received mine.

“We cannot disinfect or wash our PPE such as ropes, straps and harnesses as this could affect the integrity of the fabric.

“A lot of us are too scared to say something because of the backlash it may cause.”

WETHERSPOONS

A member of staff at Wetherspoons also complained, saying they had no confirmation they would be paid.

However, after a backlash, they have now agreed to pay for hours worked, with the first payment on April 3.

Under the new Coronavirus job retention scheme, the company will to continue to pay a proportion of employees’ pay, for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

All of the companies were approached for comment.

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