Paid to do nothing - #Really? - KMOV.com

Paid to do nothing - #Really?

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By Adam McDonald By Adam McDonald

(KMOV.com) -- It’s been nine months since we heard from workers making those claims at a local Obamacare processing facility and according to some employees not much has changed.

One whistleblower after another made startling revelations, some said they were so bored at work they played board games in the break room while others slept. 

This was at the Serco facility in Wentzville.

Serco is the government contractor with a $1.2 billion contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The story went national and lawmakers demanded answers.

But even after all the attention, we hear from employees that there is never enough work to fill an 8 hour shift. 

That's the new claim made by a supervisor at Serco.

Most troubling, whether the claims come from supervisors or employees they sound the same.

Employees tell News 4 there's not enough work - and when there is work they lack the training to do the job correctly.

Since these employees are paid by Serco, which is reimbursed with your tax dollars , we wanted to know what’s getting accomplished on your dime?

The Supervisor told us in dealing with employees “you get a lot of drama, cat fights people on the floor upset. The best way to liken it is like high school or junior high … people fall asleep we see them getting written up for corrective action, it’s against company policy to fall asleep on the job but it’s difficult for people to stay awake.

And according to the company, just in the last 2 weeks, people have been fired for violating company policies.

  •                 Right now there are 1400 people working at the facility in Wentzville.
  •                 They were hired to processing healthcare applications and supporting documents, as well as calling people to resolve paperwork problems.

But our supervisor says it’s not uncommon to call someone, only to find out they have been called by a dozen other Serco employees asking the same questions.

Serco says there was a problem in the system that led to multiple calls to the same home but that problem has been resolved.

But the company also says they don't expect people to work 100 percent of the time, 75 to 80 percent would be an accepted industry standard, and they meet that standard.

Here are all of the Questions News 4 posed to Serco and The company’s response.

1.)     How many people are currently employed at the SERCO facility in Wentzville?   

SERCO RESPONSE:  Currently, there are approximately 1400 employees at the Wentzville facility.

2.)    How many people are currently employed on the second shift at the SERCO facility in Wentzville?

SERCO RESPONSE:  Each shift has approximately 700 employees.  

Also, is the following correct: Serco is not reimbursed based on the number of employees working any given shift. You said SERCO has not hired the max number of employees authorized – what is the max number that would be authorized?

SERCO RESPONSE:  Serco’s contract is a cost plus fixed fee contract.  That means Serco bills the customer for costs plus a fixed fee. The number of Serco employees working under the contract doesn’t impact the fee paid to Serco.  In simple terms this means that the cost of employees is reimbursed by our customer.  Serco is NOT paid any additional fees based on number of employees.   The fixed fee Serco is paid under this contract is not impacted by the number of employees working under the contract.  Concerning employment, Serco has never hired up to the authorized headcount.  There is not a set maximum headcount as it changes as anticipated workload changes.  On an ongoing regular basis, Serco and CMS review the anticipated workload to determine the appropriate staffing level. 

The employees (including a supervisor) that have reached out to our newsroom work on the second shift. The supervisor says there continues to be a lack of work and a lack of training which prevents many employees from effectively accomplishing real work.

The supervisor says, “you get a lot of drama, cat fights, people on the floor upset. The best way to describe it is like high school, or junior high” This supervisor claims the majority of the day is spent handling personal issues stemming from “boredom.”

SERCO RESPONSE: Serco’s employees performing work related to the contract with CMS work are cross-trained to work on multiple tasks. In addition to processing paper applications (which is actually a small percentage of our contract), our employees:

  • ·         Receive and process all supporting documents for health care applications and exemption requests,
  • ·         Request and process missing information,
  • ·         Perform outbound consumer calls to resolve data matching errors,
  • ·         Resolve data conflicts for applications that have been received either on-line or via paper applications

We train and staff the multiple project teams according to the projected volumes of work that we expect to receive in a given period.  However, we cannot control the actual volumes of incoming requests task, and as a result we have cross-trained our employees so that they can remain productive by working on other task areas.  Based on the actual volumes of tasks that we receive on a daily basis, we adjust to relative volumes in work areas and reassign and retrain our employees to meet the demands as needed. 

As an example, at the beginning of the current Open Enrollment period, we trained a number of Wentzville employees to process paper applications.  Since then we have retrained many of those same employees to handle the expected higher volume of exemption requests.  Additionally, we are now cross-training many of those same employees to clear data matching errors.  Our contract requires us to shift personnel from task to task in order to adjust to the actual workload demands, and workload and production volumes are monitored daily to ensure that we have the correct mix of employees trained and deployed at all times. Additionally, we work with CMS on workload and staffing levels to ensure we are fulfilling the terms of our contract. The tasks associated with this second Open Enrollment period are keeping our employees extremely busy. 

As in any business or major program, and especially for those that deliver customer service or processing, there are peaks and valleys as the various tasks start and stop and people are trained and/or transitioned to other tasks.  We never expect to maintain 100% employee utilization rates at all times.  Industry best practices in this area strive to achieve staff utilization rates between 70% and 85%.  Serco’s performance in this regard is well within the best practices’ range. 

Have some employees been terminated for fighting, arguing, etc?

SERCO RESPONSE:  As with any large project, we expect to deal with employee performance issues. We have high standards when it comes to rules of behavior and practice.  If employees do not meet these performance standards or violate any of these workplace rules, they are appropriately disciplined or terminated.  As recently as the last two weeks we have terminated employees at the Wentzville facility for a variety of policy infractions and we will continue to work to maintain our employee standards. 

Finally, the supervisor claims a duplication of services. For example, something pops in the cue that requires an outbound phone call. A Serco employee will call the consumer only to discover a dozen different employees have already contacted the consumer over the same question. As you can imagine this leads to frustration for the consumer and the employee.

Is this an issue that is being handled internally? Is there a reason the system isn’t designed to prevent these duplicate calls or inquiries from SERCO to the consumer?

SERCO RESPONSE: Until recently, the system was unable to group family members into the same queue.  As a result, calls could have been made to different family members at the same house hold on different days.  The system now enables us to make one call to a household to address all requests of family members. 

Question #1:  The stories over the past two weeks have been consistent among unrelated employees. I am being told many employees on the night shift are “bored” and in some cases “sleeping” on the job. In fact, a current manager is making this accusation. That said, we would like to know what’s being done at this taxpayer funded facility.

Response:  Serco’s employees performing work related to the contract with CMS work are cross-trained to work on multiple tasks. In addition to processing paper applications (which is actually a small percentage of our contract), our employees:

  • ·         Receive and process all supporting documents for health care applications and exemption requests,
  • ·         request and process missing information,
  • ·         perform outbound consumer calls to resolve data matching errors,
  • ·         resolve data conflicts for applications that have been received either on-line or via paper applications

We train and staff the multiple project teams according to the projected volumes of work that we expect to receive in a given period.  However, we cannot control the actual volumes of incoming requests task, and as a result we have cross-trained our employees so that they can remain productive by working on other task areas.  Based on the actual volumes of tasks that we receive on a daily basis, we adjust to relative volumes in work areas and reassign and retrain our employees to meet the demands as needed. 

As an example, at the beginning of the current Open Enrollment period, we trained a number of Wentzville employees to process paper applications.  Since then we have retrained many of those same employees to handle the expected higher volume of exemption requests.  Additionally, we are now cross-training many of those same employees to clear data matching errors.  Our contract requires us to shift personnel from task to task in order to adjust to the actual workload demands, and workload and production volumes are monitored daily to ensure that we have the correct mix of employees trained and deployed at all times. Additionally, we work with CMS on workload and staffing levels to ensure we are fulfilling the terms of our contract. The tasks associated with this second Open Enrollment period are keeping our employees extremely busy.

As in any business or major program, and especially for those that deliver customer service or processing, there are peaks and valleys as the various tasks start and stop and people are trained and/or transitioned to other tasks.  We never expect to maintain 100% employee utilization rates at all times.  Industry best practices in this area strive to achieve staff utilization rates between 70% and 85%.  Serco’s performance in this regard is well within the best practices’ range. 

We take seriously our performance under this contract and our responsibility as a good corporate citizen to the taxpayers.  If at any time there are concerns or potential issues, we want to know about them so that we can look into the matter and address them appropriately, and we do investigate all allegations. 

As with any large project, we expect to deal with employee performance issues. We have high standards when it comes to rules of behavior and practice.  If employees do not meet these performance standards or violate any of these workplace rules, they are appropriately disciplined or terminated.  As recently as the last two weeks we have terminated employees at the Wentzville facility for a variety of policy infractions and we will continue to work to maintain our employee standards.

Question #2:  In addition, employees claim they are unable to complete many of the tasks you reference b/c of a “lack of training” Employees say when they are unable to complete a task or don’t know what do they are told to ask a manager, who then refers them to their “QRG”

Response:  Our employees have been trained in the multiple other task areas that we are required to support.  We have recently refocused our training to expand into additional areas in the Marketplace, including clearing data matching issues.

Up until recently, our training focus has been on processing applications for exemptions.  Since processing exemptions is an important task, training is extensive and occurs over the course of several weeks.

Question #3:  Employees have also provided documentation about a pending union which is another issue I would like to discuss. Does SERCO or CMS have any response to employees forming a union? 

Response:  It is not uncommon for a union to try to organize at locations with SCA employees.  The most effective way and efficient mean to resolve workplace issues are by working together with our people directly, through open and honest communication, rather than an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust.  We believe the best way to protect employee job security is to maintain the operational flexibility required to meet the demands of a changing business environment.  Our CMS program employees’ wages, benefits, and other rights are already guaranteed by Federal law (such as the Service Contract Act) and many other federal and state employment laws.  With a union, the employees would be paying dues for benefits and protections that they already enjoy. 

Question #4: How is the contract structured?

Serco’s contract is a cost plus fixed fee contract.  That means Serco bills the customer for costs plus a fixed fee. The number of Serco employees working under the contract doesn’t impact the fee paid to Serco.  Concerning employment, Serco has never hired up to the authorized headcount.  On an ongoing regular basis, Serco and CMS review the anticipated workload to determine the appropriate staffing levels.

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