A day of action is due to take place outside the BT Call Centre in Portadown today (Thursday) to protest against the gap between salaries for BT staff and agency workers.
A spokesperson for the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said staff sitting alongside each other, doing the same jobs, can see a difference of around £2 in their hourly wage.
The centre, on the Carrickblacker Road, handles 999 call from across the UK as well as Directory Enquiry calls for BT and other companies.
In September, their work was recognised by Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson after it emerged that staff had to deal with very distressing 999 calls at the time of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June.
At the time, Lord Mayor Wilson said, “When my office contacted the centre to arrange a civic reception the manager explained that they couldn’t leave their desk for a prolonged period of time.
“I fully understood their position but was determined to show my support for their work and made a decision that I would go to them.”
The CWU spokesperson said the centre employs around 89 workers on a BT contract and around 30 on a Manpower UK contract.
She added, “It is a busy environment and they are under a lot of pressure. During the recent storm, every single one of them made it into work.”
Portadown is just one call centre location in the UK where the union is bringing its ‘Close The Gap’ campaign.
A spokesperson said, “The objective of the campaign is to ensure that at a very minimum, Manpower members working on the BT account are paid the Real Living Wage.
“The initiative has emerged from the grassroots of the union, where anger and frustration has increased at the low levels of pay among staff employed by the Manpower agency on BT work.
“This forms the basis of the campaign’s first key demand, which is for all agency workers on the BT contract to be paid at least the Real Living Wage of £8.75 outside London.”
National officer Sally Bridge said, “For too long PBA (Pay Between Assignments) contracts have been used to artificially keep pay rates low. While this may not be in breach of the law, it is morally wrong.”
A BT spokesperson said, “BT is committed to fair rates of pay for anyone working on behalf of BT Group. Given the nature of our business, we need to get the right balance between permanent and flexible roles, and we achieve this partly through the use of agency staff.
“Pay levels for agency workers are determined by the agency and the requirements set out in the relevant legislation, and will vary depending on the role. BT remains committed to creating permanent jobs and we have converted a number agency workers in Northern Ireland to BT contracts, as well as creating significant new BT jobs across the region.”