Baguio BPO workers seek justice for Davao fire victims

BUSINESS Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers in Baguio City are calling for justice over 37 call center agents in Davao City who perished in the NCCC Mall fire days before Christmas.

Sitel Philippines-Baguio Association of Rank and File Workers–BPO Industry Employees Network (Spark-Bien) is one with the country in mourning the death of 37 employees of Survey Sampling International (SSI) following the burning of NCCC Mall in Davao City days before Christmas.

"We call for a thorough and independent investigation of the NCCC mall fire as the gravity of the incident raises serious questions to SSI’s compliance to safety standards," Spark-Bien said in a statement.

Spark-Bien laments that in previous cases of workplace fire leading to massive deaths of workers, such as Kentex, HTI, Novo Jeans among others, justice for the victims and their families has been elusive and slow-paced.

“We are very concerned this might also be the fate of 37 SSI workers. And it is not unlikely that future occupational deaths will continue happen if nobody is penalized in this case,” the statement added.

The newly formed organization said the practice of all BPO companies concerning Occupational Safety and Health Standards should be further scrutinized.

"Many BPO companies do not conduct emergency drills. Even if there are drills being conducted in the buildings where these BPO companies are based, or even if there is a national emergency drill, the management will not stop its operation to join the drill. This is because the operations cannot stop. Workers have to keep taking calls or providing whatever service there are supposed to provide to the client and the customers because there is a service level that needs to be maintained," it added.

The statement further said the case of SSI also makes it imperative to legislate stricter penalties for violations of OSH standards.

“As we call for justice for the 37 workers in SSI, we also express our support to the Senate Bill 1317, now being heard in the Senate whose version already passed the lower house. The bill imposes criminal and higher monetary penalties to employers who violate OSH standards. As the case of SSI workers shows, work in the so-called sunshine industry can be deadly; policy changes are therefore necessary and justice must be served immediately to avoid more deaths of workers," the statement closed.
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