Archives for bpo health problems

“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:

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. []

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Health, Safety and Working Conditions in a Contact Center

(A Case Study done by the Occupational Safety and Health Center, Department of Labor and Employment)

 “What are call contact centers?

     A contact center is a central customer service operation where agents, often called customer care specialists or customer service representatives handle telephone calls on behalf of a client. Contact center workers use telephones and computers to conduct their business. The services provided by the contact centers include Technical support or customer care,Ticket booking, Telemarketing, Market research and survey, Financial services, Fundraising, medical services, among others.

      “Work in contact centers is highly standardized and controlled. Operators give rote responses taken from per- written scripts and manuals and ,hours of the work is controlled by computers. Electronic performance, onto ring of work volume, error rates, voice quality and content of telephone conversations is done remotely.

 x x x x

 “What are the occupational safety and health conditions in contact centers

     “x x x Among the identified health problems in contact center employees were pains in the neck/shoulder, wrist and back areas. These problems were associated with poor workstation design such as computer monitors placed above eye level, work surfaces that were to high or non-adjustable chairs. Other factors mentioned that contribute to the development of muscle and joint pains were long uninterrupted hours of work with the computer, invariable and sedentary work and low job satisfaction.

      “Another health issue that affects contact enter operators is the risk of having voice problems. Symptoms noted were dry and itchy throat, hoarseness, frequent clearing of throat. One of the factors identified to contribute to the problem is the high demand on the vocal system because of the interactive nature of the task of contact center operators. Workers also reported eye strain associated with the physical environment such as poor lighting conditions and uninterrupted use of computers.

      “the major psychosocial and work organization stressors identified by participants include: very little job security fearing that their call center might close suddenly; dealing with rude clients; unrealistic performance quotas assessed in terms of call rates, call times, sales quotas; constant electronic performance monitoring; and random taping of phone conversations. Other job stressors identified were work schedules that interfere with family and social life; very early or late shifts created transportation problems and concerns for safety and performing simplified, highly fragmented, repetitive, fast paced workloads. The interaction of these psychosocial factors and other work related and other work factors have been related to injury and other health issues in the workplace.

      “Contact center workers have been documented to have occasional exposure to higher noise levels, for example from fax tones, holding tones, and high pitched tones from mobile telephones.  High sound levels in the room may also occur from the simultaneous talking of the employees.  Though it is recognized that in general, the levels of noise transmitted through the headsets or levels present in the contact centers are incapable of damaging the ear directly, a large number of workers studied were concerned that their hearing was being damaged as a result of exposure to noise at work.


      “In 2001 to 2002, the study was conducted to add to the little knowledge available on OSH issues related with contact centers. x x x In the Philippines, there is a lack, if not total absence, of information on occupational safety and health conditions in contact centers.  The OSH standards cover practically all workplaces in the formal sector but the peculiarity of certain hazards and risks in Contact Centers needed addressing.

      “In addition to susceptibility to health problems from computer use, contact center workers have to deal with work organization and psychosocial factors such as fear of not being able to meet performance quotas, anxiety over constant electronic monitoring of performance, predominant night work to coincide with regular working hours in Northern America or Europe, disruption in social and domestic life and safety concerns because of night work.

      “This rapidly expanding industry also has to deal with concerns of  women especially working mothers as well as with work issues of young workers.  It also related to the aspirations of young workers in terms of career opportunities and training.

 Results of the Study:


     “The main objective of this study was to determine the prevailing safety and health conditions and to look at the nature and frequency of job-related complaints among the workers.  By undertaking this study, the study team was able to find out critical information about aspects of contact center work that influences the health and well-being of workers.


   “The results of the study showed that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) significantly impact the well-being of workers.  As demonstrated by the results of the study, the health complaints commonly reported by the respondents were MSDs affecting the upper back, neck and lower back.  Ergonomic risk factors observed that contributed to these disorders were highly repetitive typing or mouse use, static muscle contractions from postural fixation such as prolonged sitting brought about by intensive computer use, inadequate workplace dimensions and layout, unfavorable physical environment, and long working hours.


     “Visual symptoms can be linked to conditions surrounding computer use in the contact center.  Glare, inappropriate monitor heights, long hours of computer work, dry cold air, and high air speed have been associated with eyes train in many epidemiological studies.  These conditions were identified in all the Contact Centers visited during the conduct of the study.  Furthermore, computer work is associated with elevated viewing angle, reduced blinking rate and widening of the ocular surface area that would consequence,t produce drying of the eyes and increased eye discomfort.


     “x x x The voice problems were associated with vocally demanding tasks in the company.  In fact, a study on the prevalence and risks factors for voice problems among telemarketers showed that telemarketers were twice as likely to report 1 or more symptoms of vocal attrition.  x x x complaints referable to hearing may emanate from the

Noise explore through headsets.  Making and receiving class present little disturbance, however, other sources of noise may crate problems for the workers.  Background. Noise may stem from within the workplace such as colleagues tailing simultaneously, music or. Noise coming from the other end. Extraneous high frequency noises from mobile telephones, fax tones or for. Bad line connection ,ay also expose workers to short-term high noise levels and cause ringing in the ears or decrease in hearing ability. Hearing problems may arise from sharing of headsets as this practice increases the risk of ear infection.


     “The odd work schedule is a peculiarity in contact. Enters in the Philippines. This is characterized by predominantly ninth work to coincide with the regular work hours of the clients in Northern America or Europe. Night work, thus, becomes an important occupational safety and health issues.  Prolonged nocturnal work forces the worker to invert the ‘activity-rest’ cycle and has been documented to have negative impact on the health and well-being of the workers.  Health effects may include sleep disorders, eating disturbances and gastrointestinal disorders, mental problems and cardiovascular disturbances.


     “Effects on work performances and efficiency leading to errors and accidents have also been documented. The increased use of caffeine, alcohol or drugs such as metaamphetamines or sleeping pills by workers trying to overcome the effects of fatigue or trying to get to sleep have also been observed.  Night shifts and weekend work may cause problems with the social and domestic lives of employees and their families.  The workers’ activities are essentially ‘out of synch’ with their families, friends and community in general.” x x x x x.