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The ‘robots’ talk back

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Issue 1764

Inside the system

The ‘robots’ talk back

UNHAPPY former employees of the ntl call centre in Swansea have set up a web address to compile complaints about their former employers. The group, ntl unofficial unhappy associates union, is collecting a dossier on problems at the call centre. It has received 50 responses so far.

“One of the problems is the way all calls are monitored,” said a group spokesperson. “Ntl has brought in new systems of looking at performance based on statistics. “If you go on a break for ten minutes and you’re one minute over, you’re called upon to answer. You can’t use any initiative. Basically you’re manning the phones like robots. There are people leaving at a rate of 30 a week.” This is not the only example of control-freakery

Management at BT call centre in Wales would not let a worker take an emergency phone call from her husband who wanted to tell her that their son had been rushed to hospital.

David Bebb was forced to pose as a customer before he was allowed to speak to his wife.

GREEDY firms desperate to get their hands on more of our public services in New labour’s public-private partnership schemes have hired Margaret Thatcher’s old advisor to help them.

The Public Private Partnership Forum have hired Lord Tim Bell’s Bell Pottinger firm. He will advise them on lobbying ministers. Bell helped Thatcher win three elections by advising her on strategy and image.

Two-faced fayed

“WHERE ARE the unions now? Today the working people of Britain are faced with an arrogant, uncaring government. Many are at the mercy of their employers. Once the unions were a beacon of light to ordinary people everywhere.”

These are the words of Mohamed Al Fayed, the millionaire owner of the Harrods store in a recent column in his Punch magazine. He has changed his tune.

Back in the mid-1990s Fayed’s victimisation of union activists and cuts in workers’ conditions led to strikes in Harrods.

NOTTING HILL Carnival: a magnificent two days. No trouble despite 10,000 police who were there for the overtime


NEW LABOUR constantly looks to the US for ideas to cut down on our civil liberties.

An example from the US shows the dangers of giving the police even more powers. The US government has set up a national database containing personal information about millions of US citizens in a supposed attempt to “crack down on crime”. The US security forces are more likely to use it to get the home addresses of women they find attractive or the driving records and criminal histories of love interests, colleagues or rivals.

In the state of Michigan alone over 90 police officers, FBI agents and security guards have been caught downloading confidential information for illegal use. “Running a licence plate for a date” is how the police describe it. One officer stalked a woman, phoned her three times a day, and described her exact weight and height.

Another downloaded information about his ex-wife’s new husband and used it to try and get custody of their son. He was punished with a reprimand and a week’s suspension.

Keene interest in Blair’s hols

TONY AND Cherie Blair spent part of their holiday at a 12th century chateau near Toulouse in France this summer. They have stayed there every year since Labour was elected in 1997. The tabloid press reported that the chateau was once the setting for a pornographic film.

Much more worrying is the fact that Sir David Keene, a senior judge who rules in cases in which the government is involved, owns the chateau. Keene granted the government an injunction banning the Mail on Sunday from printing ex-MI5 operative David Shayler’s exposure of the secret service in August 1997.

This came days after the Blairs’ holiday at Keene’s home. Shortly before the Blairs went to France last year Keene was made an appeal court judge.

This summer he has been hearing a case brought by the legal services commission against the home secretary.

THE crisis caused in the Sussex police by the killing of James Ashley is continues. James Ashley was shot in a police raid in 1998. No police officer was tried for the killing.

Home secretary David Blunkett criticised the police and forced Paul Whitehouse, the Sussex police chief, to resign earlier this year. The closing date for applications for the job was last Friday. Only one person applied.

Onto a loser

THE WALL Street financiers Merrill Lynch spent a fortune attracting hotshot gambler on the stock market James McCall. They gave him over $1.5 billion to invest from early last year.

By last week he had lost almost $1 billion of that. McCall’s fund ranked in the bottom 1 percent of funds for the previous day, week, month, quarter and year. Shares that were worth $10 are now worth $2. “It has been a miserable week,” said McCall.

Things they say

“LET’S stop pretending we face food shortages. There is hunger, but not food shortages. GM food is for the rich world.

  • SERGEY VASNETSOV, Wall Street’s leading chemical industry analyst with Lehman Brothers

“THERE could well be a winter of discontent and, unless action is taken quickly, the thaw is a long way off.”

  • STEWART FRANCIS, chair of the Rail Passengers Council, revealing new rail failures and predicting more chaos

“THE NATO bombing of Serbia reversed the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing by protecting the Albanians while they cleansed Kosovo of the Serbs-which in turn encouraged the Albanians to have a go at the same ‘solution’ in Macedonia.”

  • BRIAN BARDER, former UK ambassador to Ethiopia and Poland and high commissioner to Nigeria

“YOU guys misprinted me. You had me talking about some kind of cultural revolution and I was talking about taking arms against the government.”

  • SEAN PENN, actor and film director, tells the press what sort of revolution he’s looking for

“THERE’S an enormous amount of room for an activism that I, shamefully, am not yet enough of a participant in. Nothing like Seattle happened in 20 years. It is a very hopeful thing.”


“I SUPPOSE I ought not really to say so, but Tony Blair is not much liked by the movement he leads.”

  • Labour MP SION SIMON

“A DUCHESS would be too grand, a lady too common. So a countess is the perfect compromise.”

  • BUCKINGHAM PALACE official on the title Camilla Parker-Bowles would prefer if she marries Prince Charles

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