Marcos urges DOLE to investigate alleged BPO companies ‘work from home abuses’

Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

Senator Imee Marcos has expressed concern over the alleged employee abuses arising from flexible work arrangements particularly in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry while the country is suffering from COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released, Marcos urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to investigate the alleged abuses being committed by call center companies against Filipino workers.

Amid the health crisis, the work from home scheme became more preferred in the age of “new normal” as the number of coronavirus cases in the country have already exceeded 30,000 cases.

Marcos noted that labor advisories issued in March and May require employee consultation before flexible work arrangements can be adopted, but she received complaints that company managers are allegedly “deciding on their own to withhold compensation especially of Filipino employees or to make them shoulder operational costs so that further losses in corporate income can be reduced.”

As the chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, Marcos said her office has been receiving reports of unfair practices under the work from home arrangements of some  business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.

Most of the complaints that her office have received came from call center employees, particularly “non-payment of salaries in the past 60 to 90 days, denial of separation benefits for those laid off.”

She added that several BPO employers have failed to unreimbursed their worker’s costs for electricity and internet access of night-shift employees working from home.

Aside from that she has received complaints on extended home-based work shifts with “no extra pay if system tools break down, and forced leave on maternity credits without assurance of being rehired.”

“The complaints are not just coming out of smaller call centers but also from top-listed companies that were earning billions in annual income. One even reportedly cut its workforce to less than half,” said Marcos.

“As stated in Labor advisories 9 and 17 this year, flexible work arrangements should go through employee consultation and be reported by companies to the nearest DOLE office with jurisdiction over the workplace. Companies must also provide adequate support for those working from home, according to number 17, which also echoes the Labor Code on separation pay and benefits,” she explained.

Marcos also urged the DOLE to monitor corporate compliance more closely, “since labor abuse during the pandemic may be more widespread than just within the BPO industry.”

“BPO’s must take care of their employees in anticipation of a bounce-back in business post-COVID, as companies in other sectors will turn to outsourcing services to cut costs,” she said.

The BPO industry’s contribution to the country’s economy has grown from a mere 0.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2000 to an estimated 12 percent last year.

She added that projections prior to the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the 1.4 million-strong call center workforce in the country may reach 2.5 million this year. 

On Sunday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the local BPO industry may need 6,000 more employees amid the health situation as players eye operation expansion in Metro Manila, Clark, Pampanga, and Cebu

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