Standards for BPM companies

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014


A GROUP composed of call center agents is calling for stricter regulations to protect workers in the business process management (BPM) industry. 

The Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) wants to standardize practices and enforce strict regulation of employers who will be putting up BPM companies to avoid fly-by-night operators who are ill-prepared to run a business.

They outlined eight “priority demands” for standardization, which include the imposition of a bond as a pre-qualification and requirement for a call center operation. The bond will be used in case of sudden closure and should amount to one month basic salary of the total number of employees hired.

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It added that non-regular employees should also be covered with basic hospitalization and insurance, since they are prone to sickness as they work in the graveyard shift.

The group also cited that the minimum salary should be standardized. ICCAW demanded a basic wage of P12,000 and a transportation and meal allowance of P2,500 a month, exclusive of health benefits and insurance.

“Establishing a minimum wage and allowances in the BPO industry will advance workers’ rights and interests,” ICCAW said. 

The group also demanded for regular labor inspection of BPM and call center sites in accordance with the Department of Labor and Employment’s (Dole) Labor Standards Enforcement Framework and in coordination with ICCAW representatives.

Dealing with closures

The group also asked for the immediate activation of a quick reaction team from Dole in response to sudden and illegal closures of BPM companies; yearly tax breaks equivalent to two months with exemption from income taxes of wages below P25,000 to adjust to the cost of living in Cebu; election of employee representatives within BPM companies; and regularization of employees after a maximum probationary period of six months.

ICCAW relaunched its organization last Monday following reports of continued violation of labor standards and unjust labor practices, specifically among small and medium-sized BPM companies.

They said just labor practices have not been widely practiced or observed despite the country being known as a top global outsourcing destination. 

“The Philippines has no strict regulation when it comes to putting up a call center business, no government agency that acts for quick intervention and there are not enough programs designed to protect call center workers’ interests,” said ICCAW. 

“Specifically, we call for an end to business tactics used by some employers meant to avoid liabilities to their workers such as illegally closing down and forming another company with the same operations and accounts,” the group added.

ICCAW was formed after a call center company, Direct Access, shutdown operations two years ago without notifying its employees, said Sylvio Dorig, Jr., ICCAW’s vice-president for external affairs. Since then they have been advocating for welfare of BPM employees.

“We are not against the BPM industry, we just want to curb labor malpractices in the industry. The government sees the progress but they don’t see the real situation of the human workforce employed in the industry,” explained Marleo Enobio, the group’s vice president for internal affairs.

Following developments

Enobio said what they want is for BPM companies and employees to be aligned together and for the labor department to quickly respond to employee concerns.

Dorig said they are currently monitoring the status of three BPM companies here after receiving several complains of unjust labor practices from their respective employees. 

He mentioned a company operating in Mandaue City with 400 employees whose operation is already “shaky and floating”, according to its employees. Dorig said the firm is being run by the previous owner of a call center company that closed down two years ago.

The group also received complaints such as no overtime pay, delays in salary, and terminating employees without due process from other BPM firms.

Improving the industry

Dorig said they are currently in talks with the affected employees and are now preparing the necessary documents to file before Dole. “We will urge Dole to conduct an immediate inspection on this call center firm in Mandaue City,” he said.

Enobio said taking the lead in addressing employee concerns is meant to help improve the performance of the industry, which has been generating revenues for the country and giving employment to thousands of Filipinos.

The group plans to submit these “priority demands” to Dole and other concerned government agencies.

Impractical’

Sought for comment, Jun Sa-a, executive director of Cebu Development Foundation for Information Technology (Cedf-it), doesn’t think the bond requirement is practical for big players because it is only the smaller operators that tend to operate on a fly-by-night basis. 

“A more practical solution is for all legitimate centers to register with Dole so that workers can verify with Dole prior to joining the company,” said Saa in a text message yesterday. 

In terms of salary standardization, Saa said “we cannot have another minimum wage for contact centers since their rates and benefits are already higher than what is prescribed by law.” Wages, he added are also determined by market forces, which are usually higher than the minimum.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 11, 2014.

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