French workers at a call centre are threatening to strike over their right to pee without having to get permission from their bosses.
Some 200 workers at the Teleperformance call centre at Blagnac, near Toulouse, have been told they must send a message to their bosses every time they step away from their desk and that includes trips to relieve themselves.
Their superiors then have to give the green light for each “pause-pipi”.
"It's degrading," Eric Dengean, a representative for the workers' CFDT union, told The Local.
"It's like we're in kindergarten where we are forced to raise our hands to be able to go for a pee."
The system was implemented on Wednesday and is a result of Teleperfomance meeting a request from their client, French mobile operator SFR-Numericable, for whom they operate the call centre.
"It's a form of blackmail on the part of SFR-Numericable," Dengean said, describing how staff have to press an icon to flag to their superiors what kind of a break they are planning to take.
"There's a coffee cup icon and then there's a toilet icon and so on," he said.
The rule has been brought in to try to limit the time the workers are away from their post in order to maximise their output. Out of their seven hour day, workers are allowed a maximum of 30 minutes away from their desks that includes for toilet trips.
"It's the same for everyone, whether they have a disability or not," Dengean said.
An anonymous employee told local newspaper La Dépêche that 7 percent of the workforce were older or had disabilities and should not be forced to get green light from management if they want to satisfy a natural need.
Unions have made a joint call for workers to stage a walkout on Friday.
Thierry Godec, a representative from the CFDT union described the problems that workers will face.
“There’s a huge risk that managers won’t respond [to the requests for a pee break],” he told La Dépêche newspaper. “According to stats managers are only at their desks 55 percent of the time. So if it’s the 45 percent of time and an employee gets stuck on a long call they will burst a pipe."
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Teleperformance is the global leader for call centres and managers 65 call centres around the world for various clients.
The company declined to respond to The Local’s request for an explanation saying that all enquiries must go through their US press office.
L’Express newspaper reported that in 2012 the call centre was fined €750 by a labour tribunal for punishing an employee who took too many pee breaks.