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!