Press Releases

SHOULD BPO WORKERS CONTINUE TO SUFFER IN SILENCE? By Atty. Ruben D. Torres

    For a monthly basic pay of around Php.25,000 BPO workers continue to suffer ailments and indignities. The August 28, 2013 article of Hannah Mondejar published by Daily Inquirer (http://m.inquirer.net/opinion/?id=59819) on the same date, enumerates some of the problems that continually beset BPO workers.  I salute Ms. Mondejar for her courage in coming out with what she suffers as a result of working for a call center. Despite all the ill effects on her health, she continues to work in a call center for the money.

Is Ms. Mondejar alone in her sufferings? Definitely, NO! Hannah, HINDI KA NAGIISA!. A research study done by the Occupational Health and Safety Center of the Department of Labor, in 2007 the health and safety issues entailed in call center work. Members of the BPO Workers Association of the Philippines (BWAP) confirm Ms. Hannah’s complaints as well.

We list the following health related issues raised by BPO workers:
1. Itchy throats and hoarseness at the end of their eight (8) hours duty;
2. Itchy and teary eyes as a result of long sessions with computers;
3. Stiffness of shoulder and neck muscles and recurring back aches as a result of non-ergonomically designed work stations;
4. Recurring headaches;
5. Insomnia;
6. Increased blood sugar leading to a diabetic health conditions;
7. High blood pressure;
8. Hemmorhoids
9. Heart disease;
10. Deteriorating gall bladder conditions;
11. Heart disease.
12. Stress, etc.

There are social issues involved in call center workers as well.  Call center workers who service North American and European clients usually work in the night or in graveyard shifts. They work in the evening and sleep during the day.  Even during their weekly breaks of one or two days, they  usually just sleep. Consequently, they have very little or no time at all to interact with their spouses or children.

We, at BWAP urge the Department of Labor and Employment particularly the Occupational Health and Safety Center to conduct a thorough study of the health and safety hazards concomitant with working in call centers. After a thorough study and tripartite consultations, the Secretary of Labor should come out with labor standards regarding the health and safety of the BPO workers.

Likewise, we call on all BPO workers to join us in this endeavor. YOU NEED NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE.  LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!

IS WORKING IN CALL CENTER BAD FOR ONE’S SAFETY AND HEALTH? By Jovenal Lazaga

We salute Ms. Hannah Z. Mendejar (“What am I doing in a call center?“, Opinion, PDI, 8/28/13) for writing about her work as a call center agent. It takes courage on her part to talk about conditions of work in her company (which of course she did not name). Her candor could easily be misunderstood as “activism’ or ‘unionism’ (which her company, like others in the BPO industry, most likely shuns). For writing the article, she could lose a job that she values dearly.  Even with her degree from UP, she admits that she could hardly find a job that offers a monthly pay of P25,000. Thus, for the sake of her children she continues to work in a call center despite the ill effects of stress on her health. 

 

            Stress is expected in the work environment of a call center because its agents are told to keep their cool especially when taking rude calls from impatient clients. Stress is understandable when one works under an inconsiderate, power-tripping supervisor who requires even a pregnant employee to report for work at the height of a typhoon. Stress is felt when one must stay awake during night shift by drinking several cups of coffee and eating a lot of chocolates.  

      

            We wish to assure Ms. Mendejar that she is not alone in raising these concerns. Many of the call center workers we know are complaining, albeit silently, about itchy throats and hoarseness of voice at the end of their eight-hour duty. Silently, they complain about teary eyes after long sessions with computers, stiffness of shoulder and neck muscles and back aches as a result of non-ergonomically designed work stations, and deteriorating gall bladder conditions.  Silently, they complain about increased blood sugar and diabetes, recurring headaches, insomnia, almoranas, heart condition, and high blood pressure.

            We urgently call on the Department of Labor and Employment, particularly the Occupational Health and Safety Center (OSHC) to conduct a thorough study of the health and safety hazards concomitant with working in call centers. We strongly urge the call center companies to protect the health and safety of their workers and to provide them with a health and hospitalization package commensurate with the occupational risks to which they are exposed everyday.

 

            Call center agents are the most important resource of a call center. Without them call centers would not have achieved their robust growth during the past years. 

 

            More power to you, Ms. Mendejar, and to all call center agents in the country!  

“Unionism is dim but not impossible” – Prof. Niklas Reese

 

In commemoration of the 59th Anniversary of the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR), BWAP held its second Forum last July 27, 2013 at the Isabelo de los Reyes Auditorium of UP-SOLAIR. The Lecture-Forum’s guest speaker is Prof. Niklas Reese of the University of Passau and University of Bonn, both in Germany, who spoke about his research paper entitled: “No Call for Action? Why There is No Union (Yet) in Philippine Call Centers?” (co-authored with Joefel Soco-Carreon).

Prof. Reese proposes ten (10) probable reasons “why there is no union (yet) in Philippine Call Centers”: (1) The “no-union” policy discourages some agents as they fear termination or discrimination; (2) Forming unions in call centers is perceived as futile given the transient character of the workforce (and the accounts); (3) It is not clear whom the agents should turn to; (4) Grievance procedures are a form of token participation; (5) Call center hopping; (6) Individualism; (7) Violation of rights and the lack of humane working conditions are considered “normal”; (8) Trade unions are considered by them as something for workers; (9) The stigma attached to unions; and, (10) Underestimation of market power. The study concludes that the prospect for unionizing is dim but not impossible. “It is not repressive regulation policies, but rather the formative power and the internalization of discourses of rule within individual life strategies that are preventing the establishment of unions and other collective action structures”, Reese added.

Characterizing the employees, the paper also concluded the following: “Call center agents not only have market power, they also have productive power, as the industry is very vulnerable to production slowdown and in need of a quick turnaround. What they lack is organizational power which would give them even more leeway to push their interests.”

The research paper is found here: http://www.seas.at/aseas/6_1/ASEAS_6_1_A8.pdf

The Reactors were Ms. Florencia P. Cabatingan, Executive Board Member of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP-ITUC) and Chairperson of DAWN-TUCP; Dr. Petra K. Mahy of the University of Melbourne, Australia; Dr. Rene Ofreneo, Professor and former Dean of UP-SOLAIR, Dir. Romeo Montefalco, Jr., Executive Director of the Bureau of Labor Relations-DOLE (who was not able to attend due to vehicular accident). BWAP invited the employer sector (IBPAP) but was not able to send a Reactor. Dean Jonathan P. Sale of SOLAIR and Dr. Maragtas SV Amante, Vice President for Administration of UP Diliman, opened and closed the Lecture-Forum, respectively. Prof. Jovy Lazaga , BWAP Vice President for External Affairs was the emcee and moderator of the Open Forum.

The Forum was also in cooperation with the Solidarity Center and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP-ITUC).

BWAP’s monthly forum is aimed to pave the way for a continuing program with industry partners to come up with specific measures to promote the welfare of IT/BPO employees and improve their productivity through close cooperation with management, and to propose policies that will help sustain the development of the IT/BPO industry in the Philippines — under the over-arching theme: “IT/BPO — Sustaining the Boom: Addressing Employees’ Concerns”.

BWAP GenSec trains in Japan

bwapjapanBWAP General Secretary Norby Caparas, through the recommendation of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP-ITUC), joined participants from Asia-Pacific (India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hongkong, Fiji and Philippines) to a training-conference conducted and sponsored by the Japan International Labor Foundation (JILAF) last June 2 to 15, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. Under the JILAF’s Invitation Program, the participants, promising junior trade union leaders mainly from developing countries, are invited to Japan and given an opportunity to study the Japanese labour situation, labour movement, productivity movement, and other topics, thereby deepening mutual understanding between Japan and their countries. In addition, teams are organized by certain themes, and symposiums and lectures are held according to these themes so that members can acquire new knowledge. During their stay of about two weeks in Japan, participants deepen their understanding of employment stability policies in Japan and also experience Japanese culture and lifestyle. The program seeks to give them a realistic picture of life in Japan. [http://www.jilaf.or.jp/English-jilaf/]

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TUCP inks pact with BPO stakeholders to advance workers’ interests

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://business.inquirer.net/119433/tucp-inks-pact-with-bpo-stakeholders-to-advance-workers-interests

MANILA, Philippines—Departing from the traditional Labor Day union activities, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines – International Trade Union Confederation (TUCP-ITCP) forged a partnership agreement, on Tuesday, with players in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

“The problems besetting labor such as security of tenure, contractualization, violation of labor standard laws are primarily consequences of high unemployment. We need to concretize and address the real problem outright. backpage balt And the only way is to strengthen labor-government-industry cooperation for employment creation and industrial peace,” said TUCP-ITUC president and former Sen. Ernesto Herrera.

The signing of agreement coincided with the launching of a BPO national association, which aims to protect and improve productivity among industry workers.

Calling themselves BPO Workers Association of the Philippines (BWAP), the newly formed group is headed by former labor leader Ruben Torres, who also served as labor secretary during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos.

Torres noted that the 700,000 workers in the BPO industry have remained unorganized all over the country.

“They are largely unprotected from unhealthy working conditions, unfair labor practices and lack of employment security,” he said.

BWAP provides training for call center representatives and supervisors and skills upgrading for jobs required by BPO companies or principals.