> I’ve always thought that working in a call centre must be a pretty grim job – I didn’t realise quite how grim…
A call centre manager has launched legal action against one of the region’s biggest employers after being sacked following an incident in which a man was kicked unconscious at his desk.
Mother-of-two Fay Hand was dismissed after bosses said she had not done enough to tackle bullying and harassment among staff at the EE offices, in Darlington.
But the 37-year-old from Wynyard Village, near Stockton, has taken the mobile phone company to an employment tribunal, claiming she was unfairly sacked after 17 years with the company.
The hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court was told that an investigation was launched after a call handler kicked a colleague in the head as the man was sitting at his desk, leaving him unconscious.
The attacker later alleged that he had been provoked after being bullied by members of his team.
The man claimed that in one incident three weeks earlier a Fifa computer game was taken from his bag.
The game was later recovered, but a colleague took his car keys from his pocket and removed the game from his car, before holding it to ransom.
Fake disciplinary hearings were also held by team members, the tribunal heard.
Operations manager Mrs Hand was told about the incident with the game by the men’s team leader.
But EE claims Mrs Hand should have done more to prevent the alleged bullying and taken action when she was made aware of it.
Tracey Dawe, EE employee relations specialist, who was involved in Mrs Hand’s disciplinary case, told the hearing: “There should have been an investigation into the alleged taking of the keys.
“She didn’t do enough when she became aware of it.”
However, Ms Dawe agreed it was unfair that Mrs Hand had never been asked to explain during the investigation why she had not taken further action.
The hearing was also told Mrs Hand was not made aware of what Judge Gerald Johnson described as ‘schoolboy pranks‘ which took place among the team – one of eight she managed at the time.
Judge Johnson asked Ms Dawe: “How can she possibly fail to prevent something she doesn’t know anything about? She can’t can she.”
Seven people were sacked following the assault, including the victim, the attacker and the team leader.
The Northern Echo reported in January how Darlington MP Jenny Chapman held talks with EE bosses after concerns were raised about working conditions at the call centre.
Staff claimed that bosses at the company’s Darlington site were acting in an unreasonable and heavy-handed manner.
In response, the company said it took seriously its responsibilities to its staff.
The tribunal continues
> The impression I get after reading that is of battery chickens pecking each other out of frustration. I think I’d rather be on the dole than work in an environment like that.
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Aug 2014
A councillor has called for restrictions on decisions taken under delegated powers by Berwick Town Council.
Councillor Georgina Hill feels it is an important pillar in her drive for the council to be more open and transparent in its business.
Speaking at full council, she said: “This council will not be able to move forward in a positive way until there is a recognition that mistakes have been made in the past and things need to change.
“We need to be more open and transparent in everything we do. We need more robust systems and safeguards in place. And we need to move decisively away from a culture where all the meaningful discussions take place by a select few in the town council office and then are presented in such a way as to go through “on the nod” at council meetings, where the devil and the lack of detail is contained well within council documents.
“Above all else, we need more scrutiny and accountability especially when it comes to spending public money.”
She was particularly concerned at the ‘unlawful’ decision of the staffing sub-committee to ratify the spending of £1,500 public money to threaten legal action over her blog.
“It is entirely inappropriate for these members, who are personally embarrassed by my revelations on Facebook, to use public money to advance their own interests,” she said.
However, her proposal that the town council does not authorise spending of council funds on external solicitors where expenditure exceeds £250, without the express authority of the finance committee, was defeated. Instead, an amendment for the matter to go the finance strategy group was carried.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 01 Aug 2014
A Stockton landlord must pay almost £1,000 after leaving his tenant without heating last winter.
Vivender Nath Blaggan left the house in Northcote Street, in Stockton, with a faulty boiler for three months during the coldest part of the year.
The 47-year-old, of Grange Road, in Stockton, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an abatement notice issued under section 80 the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and was fined £350, ordered to pay costs of £609.17 and a victim surcharge of £35.
The tenant contacted Stockton Council in January 2014 after repeatedly asking Mr Blaggan to arrange for its repair, when the heating failed in November 2013.
The council’s private sector housing team carried out an inspection at the property which confirmed there was a problem with the gas boiler.
The council served a notice served under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which gave Mr Blaggan a chance to carry out the necessary repairs.
However he failed to comply with the notice so the boiler was repaired by the council and legal action was taken, Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard.
In mitigation Mr Blaggan said that he had put temporary measures in place and provided the tenant with a fan heater and offered to pay for the extra electricity it would cost to run it.
He also said that he had arranged for repairs to be carried out but that they only lasted one week.
He had been advised he could obtain a free replacement boiler, but unfortunately the funding had been withdrawn before that could be arranged.
Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, Councillor Steve Nelson said: “We are serious about tackling the problem of poor housing conditions in the private rented sector and we take the health and safety of private tenants very seriously, where conditions are not met then action will be taken.
“We hope that this case will send a clear message to private landlords that they have a responsibility to ensure their properties meet the necessary standards and failure to do so will not be tolerated.”
Stockton Council works with private sector landlords to help maintain and improve properties and operates a Landlord Accreditation Scheme which offers advice and assistance.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 29 July 2014
South Tyneside Council has given up its search for the notorious Mr Monkey blogger, after five years and £214,000 of taxpayers’ money.
The local authority today confirmed that it will not take any further legal action in tracing the person or persons responsible for making malicious accusations in a defamatory blog.
Employees and councillors were targeted in the anonymous blog which published vile and defamatory statements about them, their families, friends and business associates.
A spokesman for the authority said: “The council took legal action because it has a duty of care to protect its staff and officials from the kind of harassment and intimidation caused by this malicious and libellous blog, which, if left unchallenged, would have seriously damaged the reputations of innocent people.
“Since the council initiated the action in 2009, the libellous comments have stopped, and there have been no new postings on the blog.”
The issue of anonymous blogs, internet ‘trolls’ and people hiding behind anonymity online has grown over recent years following a number of high-profile cases in the media.
The spokesman added: “Taking legal action attracted some criticism, but as a council we felt it was our duty to mount this challenge in order to protect people from cyber-bullying and harassment. We stand by this principle.”
An application was made by the plaintiffs to the Superior Court of California (County of San Mateo), on June 17 for the dismissal of the case.
The court gave its consent on June 19, and the case was dismissed.
The dismissal was made expressly without prejudice to any existing right or claim.
This allows the enforcement of the order for $97,475 costs made against former councillor Ahmed Khan, who chose to intervene and tried to have the legal action dismissed.
This challenge was rejected by San Mateo County Court in California, with the judge describing it as ‘frivolous.’
Costs were awarded in favour of the council, which is still trying to recover them from Mr Khan.
South Tyneside Council today said the cost of the Mr Monkey legal case was £214,000.
Source – Shields Gazette, 02 July 2014