Labor’s alliance urges govt to raise work standards in call centers

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Filipino call center workers. Photo courtesy: Prinsipepoldo.wordpress.com
Filipino call center workers. Photo courtesy: Prinsipepoldo.wordpress.com

MANILA (01-May-2012) – A labor alliance urged the government to raise the labor standards being implemented in business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, commonly known as call centers, due to the alleged ill-effects of the nature of their work to employees’ health and well-being.

In a statement, Philippine Congress of Employees (PCE) secretary general Leo C. Royandoyan appealed to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to impose the highest labor standards to business processing outsourcing (BPO), especially in terms of health, safety and salaries; despite the fact that BPO workers’ salaries and other benefits are relatively higher than those who work in other industries.

Most of the BPO or call centers in the Philippines, based on their newspaper and job-hunting websites’ advertisements, offer as much as P20,000 (US$ 469.70).

“Most of the workers are getting sick because of the time and nature of their work; pressure and fatigue, we all know, contribute in developing certain illnesses,” said the veteran labor organizer.

Citing the latest book of the International Labor Organization (ILO) titled Offshoring and Working Conditions in Remote Work, written by Conditions of Work and Employment Programme of the ILO senior researcher Jon Messenger two years ago, Royandoyan said that 42.6 per cent of BPO employees in the Philippines, working mostly in night shift, had been suffering from sleep disorders, fatigue, and eye strain; neck, shoulder, and back pains; and voice problems.

“There were also reports that some of them had already got hypertension and some, suffering from anemia because of lack of sleep, and due to enormous pressures that they are suffering, since most of the BPO work is quota based,” he said.

“BPO employees’ jobs typically involve heavy workloads backed by performance targets and tight rules and procedures enforced by electronic monitoring which are known to produce high levels of work-related stress,” Royandoyan said.

Meanwhile, there is also a need to look into the salaries of the BPO workers since it is relatively lower than the US call center workers receive.

“Based on our research,” Royandoyan said, “the regular call center employee in the U.S. are receiving roughly $10 up to $12 per hour, or an equivalent of P426.74 – P512.10. It means that the P20,000 per month salary, gross, or without the trimmings—taxes, HMO, social security, etc.—is just less than half of the salary of a regular U.S. call center agent, that works 4 hours a day or an equivalent of 80 hours in a month.”

The PCE also wants the DOLE to allow the BPO employees to get organized and to have a collective bargaining agreement since it is guaranteed by the Constitution and other labor instruments.

“We heard none about the BPO firms allowing their employees to form a union or an employees’ organization and that collective bargaining is happening inside call center companies. The right to union and the right to bargain are rights of the workers, enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, as well as in other international labor treaties in the past, and this right, should be guaranteed and respected by any other commercial entities, be it a BPO firm or not,” he said. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]

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