Which is more important? Your job or your health?

This was my letter to Service Canada regarding filing for medical benefits –

I find myself in an intolerable position with my current employer, Stream Global Services, here in London, and I need urgent advice.

I started with this company October 12th, 2011 as a Customer Service Representative for the Bell Satellite TV contract. I fell for the stated goal that we were to offer “exceptional service” to Bell’s customers to regain market position. I attended various training sessions in which we were encouraged to investigate all possible issues with a customer and do our very best to resolve the issues and retain the customer. On the floor this turned out to be a lie. What, in fact, we were to do was as little as possible in the shortest amount of time. I was admonished on every call where, although I solved problems that had been ignored before and thus retained the customer, my AHT (Average Handling Time) was over the goal of ten minutes. The fact that I retained thousands of dollars of business by solving customer’s problems; had the highest FCR (First Call Resolution), meaning my customers did not have to call back again, and my PCCS (Post Call Customer Survey) scores were the highest on the floor, various managers constantly berated me over my AHT.

It got so bad that they put me in a remedial program called B2B to “correct my behavior” and lower my AHT. Upon completion of the program I was forced to sign an acknowledgement of my target AHT and that I would be fired if I did not meet the “agreed” goal. Shortly before graduating one of the senior staff berated me on the floor in front of my colleagues, treating me like a five year-old, over a long call that he claimed was unnecessary because I was wrong, even though I had consulted a senior on the call. He claimed he would also discipline the senior, even though she did not report to him. When I consulted with my senior, she not only confirmed that he was wrong, but was also livid that he told me she would be “disciplined”. I reported this issue to Human Resources and advised them that if I was ever berated in public again I would take the matter up with a wrongful dismissal lawyer.

It should be pointed out this is a deplorable company. They have no respect for their employees, lie about their programs and treat employees unbelievably poorly. We have fridges that don’t work. Broken Microwaves in which to heat our lunch. Toilets that have been broken for months. Their practices are Neanderthal. Knowing that staff had been quitting in droves in February they announced a whole new program of metrics that would allow us to make more money. To date this program has never been implemented. Even their current program, which offers minimal reward for meeting all of your metrics, and on which they find every excuse in the world to not pay you, they run a month behind on payments, a clear violation of the contract.

There have been countless incidents of employees being bullied and harassed. One employee who had to book time off for a medical procedure was told she would lose her shift seniority and be placed back on a night shift where she would not see her kids. When I asked why the outside door to the smoking area did not have handicapped access for an employee in a wheelchair, I was told not to report it because the company would close the smoking area. Every piece of equipment we have to do our jobs – the phones, the archaic computers and, most importantly, our software, constantly break down or are unavailable. The most critical software tool we have to deal with customers goes down on a regular basis, every day. We are told to lie to customers and tell them “our software is being updated”.

Every word you say to a customer is recorded and Quality Control staff are constantly monitoring what is said. They write you up for the slightest mistake and are more than often wrong in their interpretation of what was said. I was written up for calling someone at Bell “stupid”. Only when I objected to signing the report did they listen to the call again and realize I had said “that was stupid”. Big difference. Last Monday I was written up for saying that I was glad that Bell was recording the call, inferring that because the company was so stupid I was glad it was being recorded. Again, I refused to sign the report because I knew what I had said. The customer was being obviously flirtatious with me, making suggestive comments and I advised her to remember that the call was being recorded to keep the call professional. My manager had grabbed me the minute I walked in for my shift and threatened to write me up and action (fire me) over this call. I told him to listen to the call before he went any further. I also questioned why Quality had never once written up a call where I had saved a customer who called to cancel or on any of the other hundreds of calls where I had saved a customer. My most frequent request from customers is to be able to call me back personally because I am the “only one who ever helped me properly”. No, they only report you on negative calls.

Instead of fixing all of the countless issues we have with our software, they focused their efforts on their new “Rockstar” program based on feedback from customers. They list numerous issues we are to investigate with the customer, mostly to sell them more programming, but not once do they qualify this lofty objective by adding “in the shortest possible time”. The program was to launch last week, but, no surprise, there are “glitches in the software”. Our new desktop phone management system was to launch last February, but we are still waiting. The current version crashes all day and even disconnects customers, but nobody cares. They also changed policy this week that we are to call disconnected customers back within thirty seconds, but, first our system fires the next call at you in less than one second, and, secondly, we are to get a manager’s approval before making a callback. Yet more stress.

During my time with this company my health has deteriorated substantially. Even though I am a diabetic my blood pressure has always been low (110 over 70) and my sugars were under control. I do suffer from diabetic neuropathy which results in very painful feet. My work limitations resulted in my being approved for ODSP as of last July. Due to my earnings I lost my financial assistance and my drug card, which I appealed and won and my drug card was restored. On my last visit to my diabetic team at St. Josephs they were very concerned that my heart was “racing” and my BP had increased to a dangerous level. I told them that my experience with my employer had gone from being upset, stressed and shaky after my shift, to experiencing the same condition going to work. The pressure has become intolerable and I cannot work there anymore. My health is more important to me and I will not let a job this bad kill me.

As for my current status at Stream I emailed my manager after the berating over the call, asking for VTO (Voluntary Time Off) and was told none was available. I was told to ask for vacation time, but the system would only allow a request for the next day. I then advised him that I wanted to go home sick because I could not do my job effectively under the present conditions. I reminded him that my AHT metric had been cause for termination weeks ago, at least that had been the daily threat, so just terminate me and stop threatening me. He told me he would speak to the Bell rep on site and then I was to meet with HR, but no one got back to me before the end of my shift. My manager is off the same days as I am, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I sent an email to the Bell rep that I would not be back, but I was not quitting. I would phone in sick, if only because I haven’t missed a single minute since I started and have voluntarily worked every holiday since I started.

To make matters worse, my doctor has discovered a potentially cancerous growth on my abdomen and is trying to get me in for a biopsy as quickly as possible, which is only adding to my stress. My mother died of cancer and I had a birthmark on my forehead removed several years ago because it tested positive.

My situation is complex, but I do not wish to make my life even worse. London Housing has also been taking the maximum $612 a month in rent from me, which makes working even more pointless. ODSP has been deducting the full amount of my wages plus my pension, leaving me wondering why I am working when it is killing me? I need to support myself and, most importantly, get my health back under control. I know I have worked the required hours to file for Employment Insurance, but I need some direction on what I am to do with my employment. Life has been stressful enough without making my situation worse.

I would very much appreciate your guidance.

(Due to the urgency of my situation I was hoping to meet with someone who could advise me, but I was told the process takes five days. I phoned in sick this morning mostly because I am waiting to get a biopsy, plus my stress level is off the charts.)

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