Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Questions (1128, 1129)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

1128. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is aware of the situation of workers in the emergency call answering service run by Conduit company and British Telecom Ireland; that workers are paid well below the living wage of €11.50 per hour; that they are refused collective union representation; and that they often cannot receive the annual leave to which they are entitled. [37418/15]

View answer

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

1129. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will ensure the Conduit company respects its workers’ basic human right to collective bargaining by engaging in meaningful discussions with the Communications Workers Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37419/15]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1128 and 1129 together.

BT Ireland has operated the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) on behalf of my Department under a concession agreement since July 2010 and is responsible for the conditions and resourcing of the Service. BT employ a third party contractor, Conduit Ireland Ltd, to provide operators to answer calls. Operators at ECAS call answering centres in Navan, Ballyshannon, and Dublin, process emergency calls and forward these to the appropriate emergency service as quickly and effectively as possible. The ECAS operators handle calls effectively and efficiently, often in response to stressful and distressing situations for citizens. The Service answers over 2 million calls annually, and has one of the fastest emergency call answering times in Europe. The number and cost of operators is assessed annually by the Commission for Communications Regulation as part of its annual review of the cost of the ECAS service. An expert report commissioned by ComReg is appended to this review. The latest expert report was appended to a decision on costs by ComReg published in January 2015. The expert report states that ECAS “is run effectively against the service targets and quality requirements and overall is approaching ‘leading practice’ from a performance perspective”. Furthermore, ComReg’s review concluded that an increase to the operator’s hourly rate was reasonable and notified BT Ireland accordingly.This is a matter now for BT and Conduit, and I understand that discussions between the two companies are advanced with a view to addressing ComReg's findings. I would hope therefore that the matter can be dealt with quickly given the important service that ECAS operators provide.