Young people employed at a Sunderland call centre are being required to work longer shifts with fewer breaks than are required by law, a union has charged. GMB, the union for workers at the Parseq call centre on Doxford Park, is calling on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the conciliation service Acas to conduct an audit into the company’s application of the Working Time Regulations. This law, introduced as a health and safety measure, includes tighter stipulations on the hours worked by young workers. These limit their working hours to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Young workers are also entitled to two days off each week and a 30-minute rest break after 4.5 hours of work. GMB said it has written to Parseq to request a meeting to discuss its concerns but said the company had declined the union’s offer. Chris Preston, GMB regional organiser, said: “GMB members at Parseq have complained to the union that young people under 18 are required to work longer shifts and have fewer breaks than the Working Time Regulations state. Other people aged over 18, who have not ‘opted out’ of the regulations, end up working well above the 48-hour week, averaged out over 17 weeks.” He added: “These concerns by GMB members should be investigated immediately and GMB calls on the Health and Safety Executive and Acas to conduct a Working Time Directive audit to check that the law is being adhered to and not being abused.” The union organiser said GMB would cooperate fully with an audit. It is concerned the company is sometimes operating a mandatory overtime system, or forcing those refusing “to work a later shift on a Friday as punishment. This is exactly the sort of treatment that has forced GMB members to have to operate in secret inside Parseq like some sort of North East Underground Resistance. GMB's written request for a meeting with Parseq to discuss these and other concerns has been declined but our offer to meet remains open.”
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