“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”.

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