Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
March 4, 2011

Vancouver, Edmonton and Sydney MP’s discuss Service Canada call centres with union

CEIU has most recently taken its message on declining call centre service to MP’s in three regions of the country. Union representatives met MP’s in Vancouver, Edmonton and Sydney, Nova Scotia over the need to improve service to pensioners and the unemployed through reforms to call centre working conditions and staffing levels.

In Vancouver, local leaders and members met with NDP MP’s Peter Julian and Don Davies. The MP’s heard directly from call centre staff about the workplace pressures that affect those who work there and the public they serve. Management expects calls to last no longer than 450 seconds and while staff are permitted longer calls, doing so can negatively affect the overall performance numbers they are required to meet. The two-second gap between calls adds additional pressure and makes the documentation of client files difficult, or impossible, to complete. These pressures come on top of the excessively high “occupancy rate”, or daily client contact time, that staff are expected to maintain. The union has called on the employer to use the 80% occupancy rate typically found in other call centres rather than pushing staff to meet a rate in the range of 95%.

Workplace conditions are driving up turnover and illness rates at call centres and both clients and staff are suffering as a result. Fewer trained staff are available to shoulder the load, and clients face longer waiting times to speak with staff who are under pressure to keep calls short.

Local leaders in Edmonton briefed Conservative MP Mike Lake on call centre conditions and their effects on service to pensioners and the unemployed. They are following up with letters that Lake has promised to take to the Minister.

In Nova Scotia, leaders of local 80217 (Sydney-Glace Bay) arranged a meeting with Liberal MP’s Roger Cuzner and Mark Eyking. In advance of the meeting, local executive members sent briefing materials and were pleased to note that the MP’s had carefully reviewed them. At the last minute Mr. Eyking was unable to attend the meeting but his executive assistant joined the session in his place. They discussed the high occupancy rate and carefully traced its negative impact through the system to the pensioners and unemployed who call for help. Staffing levels came next, and members from both the call centre and file processing sides detailed how insufficient staff positions had led to increased backlogs and waiting times. Expected cuts to the term staff population at Service Canada will make an already difficult situation much worse. As a result of the meeting, MP Cuzner offered to set up a meeting with the Liberal critic for HRSDC, Mike Savage, to which local 80217 President Mike Duhamel has been invited.

Our campaign continues, and members are urged join in with an individual message to their MP about the need to fix our call centres. You can send an email quickly and easily through the Parliament of Canada websiteadd your voice now for better call centres.

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