Anger as Portsmouth City Council bans staff from viewing Olympics

GOOD VIEW People watch the Olympics on the Big Screen in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (122581-4287)
GOOD VIEW People watch the Olympics on the Big Screen in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (122581-4287)
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IT’S the greatest show on earth – the Olympics.

But if you work for Portsmouth City Council you won’t be able to watch any of the events taking place during working hours.

It has banned its staff from viewing any website which streams live coverage of London 2012.

The council – which is an official supporter of the Olympics – has put restrictions on its internet service until August 19 so that staff are unable to check such sites, even during lunch breaks.

It claims the move is to stop the system crashing if too many people were to stream video content at the same time.

But the move has not been popular among employees.

One worker, who did not wish to be named but is based in the civic offices, said many of his colleagues were upset about the automatic block.

He said: ‘You can’t access anything with the word Olympics attached to it.

‘This is specific to the games, you can still go on YouTube and other streaming sites.

‘So you can’t check how we’re doing, but you can still go on Facebook or do internet shopping.

‘It seems ridiculous.

‘We are trying to encourage the Olympic spirit in this city but we can’t even see how many medals we’ve won during our lunch breaks.

‘The building is covered in huge Olympic logos but council employees have been locked out completely.

‘It’s annoying to see people using social networking sites freely when we can’t look at anything related to the Olympics.’

He added that a thread on the council’s intranet about the block had attracted around 30 angry messages from employees.

The council’s chief executive David Williams said: ‘As an official London 2012 live site, there is obviously much excitement within the city around the Olympics and all the local events the council has been promoting.

‘However, as we know that live streaming of video content puts a significant strain on our IT systems, we have some restrictions in place to prevent staff from viewing the Olympics live on council computers.

‘These restrictions are necessary to protect our essential systems, as our priority is our customers.

‘Staff are still able to use the BBC website and catch up with the latest from the games on the Big Screen during their breaks.’

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘My assumption is people should be working if they are at work.

‘They can watch the highlights or do what others have done and take leave.

‘I don’t see why the council should be paying people to watch TV.’

Businesses advised to be flexible over coverage

HAMPSHIRE Chamber of Commerce says employers need to be flexible over staff watching live coverage of the Olympics.

Ian Welland, head of area development at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said businesses have been advised to take a ‘flexible and balanced’ approach when making decisions.

He said: ‘We are the first to understand that business goes on but at the same time there needs to be that opportunity for flexibility.

‘It’s a very passionate time for the country and speaking to people who are at work this week, they have enjoyed the opportunity to watch a bit of sport in their working day.

‘It kind of puts a buzz in their day and I think generally it has raised the morale in difficult and challenging economic times.

‘The arrangements are the same when the World Cup is on. There have been times when home nations have played at awkward times but businesses have taken a flexible approach.’