Northern Ireland

Concentrix: Second Belfast worker speaks of devastating impact on staff

It is understood 150 temporary workers in the embattled firm's Belfast offices will lose their jobs tomorrow
Image caption It is understood 150 temporary workers in the embattled firm's Belfast offices will lose their jobs on Friday

A second Concentrix employee has spoken to the BBC about the huge stress staff at the company have experienced since its HMRC contract was not renewed.

The BBC understands 150 temporary workers in the firm's Belfast office will lose their jobs on Friday.

They had been working on the contract dealing with tax credit payments to low income families.

On Monday, an employee spoke to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme about suicidal callers.

The latest whistleblower, who is based at the Concentrix call centre in the city's Fountain Street, told BBC Good Morning Ulster that despite the looming job losses, workers at the firm continue to take calls from "desperate" people who are in a dire financial state.

Asked why he was speaking out, he said the stress of the situation has affected the health of some employees, who feel that "no one is speaking for them".

"We have people who are still ringing up since July trying to get their case resolved. The worst case scenario is that people are threatening suicide and in some cases there are children involved and their wellbeing is our primary concern."

He suggested that on a number of occasions, the callers have threatened the safety of their own children, adding that in each of these cases, senior members of the team strive to keep the claimant on the line until the police arrive at their home.

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Image caption The employee said dealing with suicidal callers was not part of their training

"It could be anything from 10 minutes to 45. Usually, you try to take them through the case and you may even talk to them about something else [in order to] calm them down, especially if there are children there.

"There have been cases where children in the background [are] extremely distressed because they're obviously watching mum or dad on the phone, so the whole thing can be really, really upsetting for everybody concerned."

The employee, who asked not to be identified, said dealing with such calls was not part of their training. He claimed a small number of staff deal with the most sensitive cases.

"That's been reduced down to a couple of people that are actually quite good at that, because they have maybe empathy, the right sort of sensitivity and personality to handle them.

"And then there are some people that absolutely you wouldn't let anywhere near them. People just haven't been trained, haven't been prepared for it."

The worker said that staff at Concentrix "have had a really tough deal".

The worker said that a fortnight ago, all temporary staff were summoned to a meeting, in which they were given two weeks notice of an end to their contracts.

"In my experience from the last couple of weeks with the temporary staff, they've been paying lip service in press announcements," he said.

"They've been saying 'Yeah we'll help do the very best', but on the floor, that's not the case.

'Tough deal'

"There are two members of my team who applied for internal positions and didn't get them.

"They were told they're not skilled enough, yet they're taking these suicide calls in extremely stressful, difficult circumstances, for low pay."

A spokesperson for Concentrix said: "All temporary staff working were recruited on a short term basis and as per the volume forecasts agreed with HMRC ahead of time. These temporary roles were expected to ramp down as per plan at the end of August and we have in fact extended beyond this."

The spokesman added: "We follow the guidelines provided to us by HMRC. All Concentrix staff are trained in the same way as HMRC staff members and we are prepared for situations such as this.

"Our staff conduct themselves professionally at all times. We have sought guidance from HMRC, so that our staff are supported as much as possible where we have encountered this type of scenario."

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