THE management of outsourcing firm, Transcom, is not aware at first that the implementation of BaCTrac System in Bacolod City is mandatory, its top executives said.
Mark Lyndsell, chief executive officer for Global English Region of Transcom Worldwide BV, said this was the reason why the firm, particularly its Bacolod site, was not able to implement the city’s contact tracing system.
Lyndsell, along with Transcom’s Senior Vice President for Client Service Management Craig Buckley, on Thursday, February 4, 2021, met with officials of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Task Force at the Bacolod City Government Center.
Prior to the meeting, the two top executives presented to the media the health and safety measures being conducted at its Bacolod site in Barangay Tangub, as well as the programs the company undertakes in its fight against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Lyndsell said they were not enrolled in the BaCTrac System and were not aware that it was a mandatory requirement.
“I don’t believe that we have received an official ordinance and to the best of our knowledge we were under an impression that it was voluntary, not mandatory,” he said, adding that “in all other local government units (LGUs) where we operate where these requirements are indeed mandatory, they are in place.”
Had they known that BaCTrac was a requirement, the Transcom official said it would have been in place from the very beginning.
“There is, certainly, a miscommunication that is now rectified,” Lyndsell added.
It can be recalled that the EOC Task Force earlier slapped Transcom with a notice of violation for its failure to implement the BaCTrac System, a day after 41 of its employees were tested positive of the coronavirus.
Buckley said the company is now enrolled in the system.
“BaCTrac is now live and operational. We have the scanners in all our entry points within our buildings,” Buckley said.
Every person who comes inside should have BaCTrac and antigen test results within the last seven days, he added.
Reacting to this, EOC Task Force Deputy for Medical Data and Analysis Dr. Chris Sorongon asserted that “ignorance of the law excuses no one.”
Sorongon said City Ordinance 941 or “An Ordinance Implementing the Covid-19 Contact Tracing in the City of Bacolod” was well published.
He said Transcom was represented in the second meeting conducted at the EOC sometime in October 2020.
“If that’s the case, how come that some of their employees have BaCTrac IDs. So it’s just a question of plain ignorance and they don’t even understand the necessity of the BaCTrac as far as City Ordinance 941 is concerned,” Sorongon said, stressing that “it’s mandatory, it’s in the law that all private establishments should enroll in this particular contact tracing application.”
The EOC official doubted that the business process outsourcing (BPO) firm had no knowledge about the mandatory implementation of the BaCTrac System, which is a way to boost the city’s contact tracing efforts.
“They knew it, but this is just their excuse. We visited the site on Friday, there we saw that they were not using the BaCTrac,” Sorongon said.
Assurance to comply
Transcom earlier said in a statement that the safety of employees, their families and the larger community has always been a key priority of its fight against the virus. It is committed to continuing in taking appropriate actions in unison with the local government.
The firm also confirmed that it participated in a surveillance testing conducted by the city government after 14 of their employees tested positive for the Covid-19 virus using the company's mandatory antigen testing and subsequent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing from January 23 to 28, 2021.
The Bacolod City Government’s surveillance RT-PCR test, which was conducted on 598 employees on January 29 and 30, generated 27 more positive cases, closing the total number of cases at 41 or 6.45 percent of all personnel who were tested from January 23 to 30, it added.
As the city government is stepping up efforts to ensure that establishments, including BPOs, in the city are complying with the protocols set to curb Covid-19 infections, its top officials vowed to cooperate with the local government.
Lyndsell said the company has to accept the feedback it received from the LGU and that they will do all necessary steps and adjustments to show that they are a responsible employer.
Lyndsell said Transcom has the core principle of “malasakit” and, for them, the recent unfortunate event does not truly represent the culture of the organization and its true intentions when it comes to its employees in Bacolod City and other parts of the country where they operate.
“We really want to work with the local government, we want to make sure that any miscommunication is minimized and that genuine and good intention are fully understood,” he added.
Buckley said “one important lesson is to improve communication” and that they have a proposal to set up a means for direct contact between them and the LGU.
While doing its part in controlling the possible spread of the virus within the site’s premises, Transcom officials expressed hopes that “our folks and our employees from the outside are gonna be responsible also.”
Other measures taken by the firm included teleconsultations with health professionals for employees who are returning to the site or have not reported to the site for seven days.
Prior to the company’s roll-out of antibody testing and antigen testing last year, common areas and workstations in Transcom facilities were already reconfigured to comply with the one-meter social distancing guidelines.
After a week since the RT-PCR test results were released, it increased its work at home operations in Bacolod from 75 percent to 95 percent.
The company earlier said it also spent more than US$7 million in 2020 alone to incorporate health and safety initiatives in daily business operations.
Resumption still uncertain
Despite the assurance made by Transcom executives, the EOC Task Force official said the resumption of the company’s operation is still uncertain.
Sorongon said it can resume operations provided that those who will be on duty have already finished the 14-day quarantine and positive patients have served their 14-day isolation.
Those in close contact should also observe the 14-day quarantine based on the omnibus guidelines of the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF) and that is the protocol that we are following for Bacolod City, he said.
Transcom also has to comply with the recommended health protocols that it had violated and were discussed during their meeting with the EOC Task Force Thursday afternoon.
Sorongon said the company is proposing that those who participated in the surveillance testing will be allowed to undergo a repeat swab test, which can only be done after seven days.
“We will do the repeat swab this weekend and once negative then they will be reporting on duty Monday. But again, our contact tracing cluster head is highly recommending that they finish the 14 days quarantine so that once and for all, they are all safe to return to duty,” he added.
On February 1, the city government issued an order to the company for a 48-hour temporary closure for the conduct of disinfection and decontamination.
Sorongon said they have yet to inspect the Transcom Bacolod site Friday, February 5, and the result of which will also be considered as to when to allow the company to resume its onsite operations.
“Let us make this clear, the operation that is affected is the work onsite not the work-from-home,” he stressed.
When asked about the losses incurred by the company during its cease in operation in the past two days, the officials said they are more concerned about the “reputation damage” and rebuilding their “tarnished” image and are hoping to regain the trust of the city government.
On ‘team-building’ activity
On reports that some of the employees who tested positive for the company had a team-building activity outside the city, Lyndsell said the company has not sanctioned such activity as it is not allowed.
“No team-building activities should occur,” Lyndsell said.
He said they are aware that some people have chosen to ignore that advice, hence, those found violating the order or any LGU guidelines will face necessary disciplinary actions.
Sorongon said they have to see such a policy of the company particularly prohibiting outing activities.
“Their problem is monitoring. When we asked for their master list, we have been asking for that master list since last week, we only got the master list Wednesday. So, that’s how poor their Human Resource is,” he added.
Transcom has pledged to provide financial assistance to a quarantine facility in Bacolod City in support of the mandate of the local government to curb the number of Covid-19 cases in the province.
The firm is donating P500,000 to South Hills Quarantine Facility in Barangay Alijis to aid the recovery of Covid-19 patients in the city.
“We are taking responsibility for the lapses and we would like to make amends not only by collaborating closely with the city government but also by contributing to Bacolod City’s effort to care for its citizens who are afflicted with Covid-19,” Lyndsell said.
This is the first time since March 2020 that a Transcom senior leader from Manila was permitted to travel to Bacolod given the restrictions.
To advance the safety and well-being of all Transcom Bacolod onsite employees, all of them are now required to undergo antigen testing every seven days, the company said.
Antigen tests yield faster results and detect proteins found on the surface of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, it said.