Safety First

My company says that if I get a call 2 minutes before I’m due to finish then I have to take that call, and do whatever the customer asks, even if it means setting up several policies. That could mean double numbers if it’s a landlord. I don’t agree with them.

The latest our department works is 8pm. People have had the misfortune to be stuck on a call setting up policies until almost 9pm. By this time everyone has gone home, except about 2 other people. A manager is required to stay until everyone has finished, and a person on the operations team is required to stay.

Our company is situated about a mile and half from the nearest town. It is on the bus route, but anyone who catches buses in the UK will know how bad they are after 6pm. There’s a bus on the main road at 8pm that we invariably miss, and the next one is at 8.30pm. That then means waiting in the town for the next bus or the train if catching public transport. Not a nice prospect during the winter months. For myself, catching the buses when I finish at 8pm would mean getting home at 9.30pm. I live 10 minutes away from work when travelling by car.

Add to this problem the fact that our building is at the bottom of a dead end. A road that has no lighting whatsoever – really safe. You can’t see people walking down the road in the dark, so it’s very easy for someone to be lurking.

The security is situated at the first building – two or three minutes away. So there is no security in our car park. The gates are open. They have had people entering the premises during the day to check out the equipment, and even entering the call centre while we were all working, so the company knows how easy it is for people to enter the premises on foot.

In this area there are no houses around us, just other companies. And people have been attacked on the main road, including being assaulted with a screw driver. Some of these people work at my company. Our CEO has sent messages around warning staff to be on guard, on several occasions.

So imagine finishing work even fifteen minutes after everyone else in the middle of winter, never mind 45 minutes later. The car park is empty apart the from the couple of vehicles belonging to the manager and the operations agent who have stayed over and possibly you.

You walk to your car, which may be parked at the other side of the car park, so by the time you get there the others are alraedy pulling out. You are left alone. You car decides not to work. It’s freezing cold and dark. You then have to wait for someone to turn up to help you, or walk through 3 empty car parks to get to the security.

If you haven’t got a car you walk across the 3 deserted car parks to the main gate – it’s safer than walking down the road that is not lit by a single light. You then have to wait for the bus on the main road where people have been attacked. You’re alone. The other option is to walk the mile and half on your own into the town.

Many people who use public transport either get someone to pick them up, or get a taxi. It’s a lot safer. Friends and family don’t want to be kept waiting. Taxis certainly won’t wait long. We are not allowed to use mobile phones in the call centre, so we can’t contact those waiting for us to let them know that we are stuck on a call! We finish the call only to be greeted by either family/friends who are really pissed off at being kept waiting, or they could even be worried that you have already left and something has happened to you. Or the taxi has cleared off. You then have the job of calling them back and waiting for them to turn up.

None of this is safe. But our company thinks that it can bully us into finishing that last call and work over. We don’t get the time back either. They only pay for each 15 minutes worked over. I have flatly refused. My safety comes first. If a customer calls at the last minute, well it’s advertised that we close at 8pm. I tell them we’re closed and I’ll call them back tomorrow, or get someone else to call them back. The managers don’t like this. I don’t care.

They have tried bullying people because of it, even taking them into the back room with 2 managers and telling them that it’s their job. I’ve told my manager I’m not doing it. My safety comes first. As far as I’m concerned, after the CEO has sent warning messages around over the last few years, then the company is well aware of how unsafe the local vicinity is. If they are deliberately telling us to put our safety at risk, then I reckon they are in the wrong.

I’m waiting to get the next instalment on my taking a stand. I’m waiting for something to be said next week, in fact. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say. I think I am in the right here. I don’t think that my company has any right to ask or expect people to put their safety at risk. I think it’s completely out of line and I’m not backing down.

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