WORKERS in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry have been called modern-day heroes for their contribution to the country’s economy. They still are and they do fuel the economy.
With a Cebu BPO employment of close to 200,000, Cebu benefits from the purchasing power of the mostly millennial workforce who enjoy salaries above the government-set minimum level.
It was unexpected then for Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella to receive complaints about the ways these BPO workers are being treated and housed during this period of enhanced community quarantine because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Labella had directed the city attorney to investigate one BPO company that may have violated his quarantine order and the labor laws. The mayor also urged affected BPO workers to call the City Hall hotline at 09239378599, 09239378596, 09099431037 or 09099402158 if they needed help with where to stay.
Based on reports that reached Labella, while BPO workers and companies are exempted from the stay-at-home order of the Cebu City Government, some employees have resorted to staying in their offices, living there because they cannot go home. The quarantine order has suspended all public transportation, making it difficult to move around especially at night and early morning when there are no assigned buses plying the streets.
Meanwhile, the Cebu IT BPM.Organization, the industry association, has said the call center company involved is preparing its statement about the reports that reached the mayor. The organization’s managing director, Wilfredo Sa-a, said the company is “very concerned with the issue.”
Some BPO workers have been sending messages on social media deploring company restrictions on them. While many other companies have allowed work-from-home arrangements, these workers said their firm required them to stay put, forcing them to sleep on couches and the floor.
The economic slowdown, including the closure of malls and service centers, does not remove the “hero” label from BPO workers. They remain a significant economic force and may grow into greater significance when the quarantine is lifted and we all try to return to normal routines and transactions. They deserve the same protection of labor laws as other workers here regardless of foreign ownership or partnership of their companies.
Last Sunday we experienced Palm Sunday without the palm fronds. The absence of palm didn’t turn out to be the dampener that we expected as Church officials explained that what was important was the mass and, if we were really into it, we could fashion our own crosses made of whatever plant leaves. Some people did so and promptly displayed on social media their leafy creations.
The Holy Week without actual visits to churches and the walking of the Way of the Cross will still be Holy Week but with a twist.
The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral has lined up activities that we may view on Facebook. Look for the cathedral or katedralsasugbo to participate in the virtual activities.