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Call centre strains to talk Welsh.

Byline: By Wales on Sunday

Call centre staff at a Welsh council are steering clear of answering the telephone with a bilingual greeting - for fear of straining their voices.

Contact OneVale workers at the Vale of Glamorgan local authority are supposed to answer the phone in Welsh and English.

But some have ditched the rules to spare their vocal chords. The aim is to limit speaking time as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive.

Even if the call centre staff are not Welsh speakers, the Welsh Language Board expects them to greet callers bilingually.

But Dave Joyce, national health and safety officer of the Communication Workers' Union, said: 'Call centre work can be very intense and target-driven and workers spend a large proportion of their day on the telephone. Vale of Glamorgan council call centre staff undoubtedly have a justified case which deserves support.'

Hywel Griffiths, of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, has criticised the move.

'The council has a Welsh language scheme which requires them to deal bilingually with any correspondence with the public.'

The ban on bilingualism has been branded 'absurd'.

One council worker said: 'It's ridiculous. It's political correctness taken to extremes. How much can it hurt just to say 'bore da' or 'prynhawn da' when you answer?'

A council spokesman said: 'At Contact OneVale the first response that each customer receives is a recorded message in English that welcomes them to the council and requests they hold the line momentarily. A customer service representative will then answer the phone with a greeting such as, 'My name is XXXX, how can I help you?'.'

The council has now pledged to include a Welsh translation of 'thank you for calling the Vale of Glamorgan council' to the recorded message.

The WLB said it could not comment on specific cases but it would investigate any complaints of a breach.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 6, 2007
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