The thing about Bank Holiday weekends is that it means I become all out of sync. All day I have fought against the feeling that it is Monday; ‘no it’s a Tuesday’ I constantly have to remind myself even now some twenty hours into Monday, I’m sorry – Tuesday!
Well, whatever day it is I was expecting a busy one as I entered the call-centre. For all its quietness of late I knew a bank holiday weekend, a double one at that, would mean lots of pent-up demand from customers unable to get in touch over the extended weekend.
I sat down in my usual seat and began the process of logging into the four separate systems I’m currently using for the various companies I represent as well as getting the rest of my desktop in order. This usually takes me about 8-10 minutes owing to the slowness of my computer in connecting to some of the remote stuff. About two minutes into this task I noticed a manager seemingly approaching in my direction. Sure enough they were heading over to me….. as they reached my desk they said “Can you hurry up logging in we’ve got 18 calls waiting” before disappearing as I muttered something about the computer being slow.
This was a strange occurrence as in all my time at the call-centre I’ve never had much in the way of contact from this particular manager. Even when they were nominally in charge of us operators they seemed to busy on their main role, dealing with our client companies, to take anything like an active interest to speak to any of us. In fact for most of my time in the call centre they have resided in a far corner appearing like a nervous rabbit wedged in the far recesses of its hutch. With such withdrawn figures the absence of concrete fact creates a void filled with speculation and though there is a school of thought that said manager is ‘nice’ or ‘ok’ legends exist such as one old tale that the manager used to time the data entry staff using a stop-watch. I can just imagine them tyrannically looming over a terrified member of the data entry team, casting a long shadow, whilst the poor team member fought against their shaking hands to key-in an order without errors. Failure to meet the set time would then result in the manager pulling a lever and the team member sliding through a trap-door into a piranha filled pit.
Logging-in has become a big bone of contention in the call-centre. Virtually every memo since the end of last year has contained a line about ‘being ready to take calls at our appointed start time’, in other words we are expected to put in about 10 minutes unpaid at the start of the day just to log into the various systems we use (not to mention the unpaid time we already do if calls over-run our finish times). Our HR manager also raised this during our recent inductions (all done in a batch as no-one had had one for the last 20 or so years!) and justified it with the argument that ‘if you go to a shop at its opening time the staff aren’t waiting at the door with you’. As this was being said I had to bite my tongue and not say ‘presumably their employers have the foresight to ensure their contracted working hours extend to 15-30 minutes before the opening time.” Instead I opted for my favourite tactic of pretending to agree, but actually doing the opposite. This tactic has so far been succesful with most of us still showing up at our desks no more than a few minutes before our start time, but it seems management will not give up and maybe today was part of applying extra pressure on us.
I am determined however, to stand my ground on this issue. I feel it is a moral issue as not long after the first memo appeared some bread went missing from the kitchen. A memo was put out about how theft was such a serious issue and went as far as to include a definition of theft; taking something that you haven’t paid for. I pointed this out to a colleague at the time…. if I sell my labour on a contract basis and the company is forcing me to provide some of this for free, then according to their own definition, then surely that’s theft?