‘They must do their job’

2019-02-07 16:05

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Reasons given on Wednesday for why Msunduzi’s call centre is failing the city’s residents were tossed aside by councillors who said staff must do their jobs or face disciplinary action. 

The City’s call centre co-ordinator Nqobile Madonda was put on the spot on Wednesday as the financial services portfolio committee demanded answers about the “dysfunctionality” of her unit. “I do acknowledge there are behavioural issues, there are problems, however, there has been an HR (human resources) intervention that has been put together to try and address those,” she said.

She said that the agents at the centre were disgruntled because they believed they were short paid. There were complaints about shift allowances and the overtime roster and agents also wanted their job descriptions reviewed so that they were on the higher pay grade that was on par with the emergency services call centre agents.

Madonda said she was also feeling demotivated by the challenges created by staff coming late, non-attendance at work and some not performing their duties in a satisfactory manner. “When you are not coming to work, the policy states clearly that you should report within two hours of your shift. You find that some do report, others don’t.”

She said there was a whole range of issues which could be regarded as offences. There have been disciplinary actions taken in the past and some employees received final written warnings.

“However, if disciplinary proceedings do not happen in a speedy manner then staff know that it is all bark and no action,” Madonda said.

The call centre has been a source of frustration for both councillors and ratepayers who often complain about the difficulties they face when phoning the call centre. There have been allegations that the calls go unanswered and sometimes the agents drop calls midway. Some ratepayers have also accused the call centre agents of not forwarding their matters to the relevant departments, and of being rude.

In November The Witness reported that the strategic management committee had visited the call centre and a decision was made that it needed a major technological upgrade and intervention to deal with human resources issues. In Wednesday’s report it was indicated that the City was in a process of expanding the workspace as well as getting a new system that would allow for sequencing and recording of phone calls. This new technology will also allow for customers to rate the service they received at the end of the call.

It was also found that the unit also faced staff shortages with at least 10 more agents needed. The positions were to be included on the priority list to be advertised.

However, ANC councillor Sandile Dlamini was not convinced that these interventions would turn the situation around. “You can buy the most expensive gadgets in the world but it’s not going to change the situation if you don’t have people that are committed to their work,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by councillor Mlungisi Zondi, who said the agents were not even answering the phones that they had now and getting new ones was not going to change their conduct unless discipline was re-instilled in them.

His colleague Mehmood Oumar accused Modonda of not performing her managerial duties well. He said she was also not answering her cellphone when councillors called her when they could not get through to the call centre.

He said he also did not understand why call centre agents wanted to be on a higher grade than what they were hired on. “Disciplinary measures need to be taken against those who are not doing their job. Some of them seem to be sleeping at 7 o’clock in the evening when they should be working.”

DA councillor Ross Strachan said he felt sorry for Madonda because her team was demotivated as they had been requesting things for a long time and nothing was done.

He said the call centre team needed support from leadership and management as they constantly took abuse from frustrated ratepayers who were not getting service delivery due to the City being dysfunctional. “The call centre is the heart and voice of the municipality. People even phone from outside the City. You get through to a call centre that is dysfunctional and your immediate perception is that the City is dysfunctional,” said Strachan.

Acting municipal manager Neli Ngcobo said there were several disciplinary matters underway as there were people who were not compliant.

“Councillors need to understand we cannot jump into allowances and overtime when you are failing your responsibilities for the salary you are receiving. The allowances and overtime are additional costs after you have done your work.”

She said the agents worked shifts and received a standard salary for those.

The City is developing a policy that will deal with the grading of agents.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality
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