BPO workers torn between life, livelihood

March 25, 2020

WITH many BPO companies still operating on-site and the lack of guaranteed income amid enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19, many BPO workers find themselves torn between risking their life or livelihood.

This is the reality many BPO workers face according to the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) a week into the enhanced community quarantine in the entire island of Luzon. Despite the total lockdown, the government has allowed BPOs and other export industries to remain operational.

“Based on our monitoring of BPO companies in Luzon, there are those that still require workers to come to work. There is also limited option to work from home, many companies enforce a no-work no-pay scheme and workers who come to work are exposed to a high risk of contracting COVID due to sharing of headsets and absence of social distancing measures,” Mylene Cabalona, BIEN president noted.

As of 12noon of March 24, BIEN has received reports from 75 individuals from 19 different BPO companies about their situation amid the lockdown. Of these, 23 workers from 8 companies reported that they are still being required to work. 38 of them said they do not have an option to work from home.

Some workers cannot come to work even if they want to because of the absence of public transport. Not all companies are able to provide accommodation either. “Thus, most workers who are unable to come to work are forced to use their limited leave credits to ensure they can have some income because most companies enforce a no-work no pay scheme,” Cabalona further explained.

Not all companies provide equipment and internet services that are needed for workers to be able to work from home, the group added. “Some companies only provide computers, others only pay for the internet and workers have to have their own PCs in order for them to be able to work from home,” Cabalona said.

BIEN also expressed concern after receiving reports that some workers have to take on additional tasks because of limited workforce.

“It is simply enraging that in the midst of a crisis, ordinary people including our co-workers in the BPO industry are left with dire choices. It is actually a no-choice situation because we just need to survive.” Cabalona averred.

“We reiterate our call to the government and BPO companies to heed the workers call, suspend on-site work and guarantee paid time off for BPO workers at the time of the lockdown,” Cabalona said.

Last week, the group started a petition “Let Us Stay at Home” which called for the suspension of on-site work in BPOs, guaranteed income and free testing and treatment for COVID19. At present the petition has over 4,000 signatures.