Issue of October 1, 2017
Mt. Province

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Formation of unions in BPO backed
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

Even employees who are properly compensated should be allowed to form organizations that will represent their cause, especially in a volatile industry such as business process outsourcing or call centers.

A proposed ordinance is pending before the city council, which seeks to protect the rights and welfare of those employed in call centers.

Proposed by Vice Mayor Edison Bilog, the proposal seeks to protect those employed in the BPO sector by affording them standard treatment where they are free from abusive language, physical violence and any act that dishonors their dignity; protection from discrimination by reason of sex, sexual orientation, political or religious belief, civil status, pregnancy, disability or ethnicity; right to be informed of the terms of their contract; regularization; security of tenure; access to information that will allow employees to understand their rights, benefits, obligations, and working conditions, protection from understaffing or overloading, proper compensation for the number of hours worked including during holidays; meal break; night differential benefits; comfortable rest area especially for those in the graveyard shift; transportation allowance; leave benefits; safeguard from administrative proceedings; right to money claims; freedom from excessive company bond; and right to self-association.

“Employees shall not be restricted the right to join, organize, or assist organizations to collective bargaining and to participate in the deliberation of issues and in the formulation of policies that affect them,” a portion of the proposal stated.

The proposal also seeks for the setting-up of a help desk headed by the Department of Labor and Employment where employees or applicants may seek advice about the terms and conditions of employment.

Bilog’s proposal is an offshoot of the recent inquiry of the city council on the labor row between Sitel and some of its employees. The former is the biggest BPO in Baguio.

Several of the rights proposed by Bilog are already being implemented in BPOs in Baguio especially those registered in special economic zones. Unions however, do not exist in BPO companies. According to the information technology-Business Processing Association of the Philippines, unions in BPOs are not needed because the needs of workers are met and the benefits of employees are even higher than industry standards.

Calls for the formation of unions in BPO companies are not new.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said unions should be allowed in BPO companies for it is a vehicle for employees to bargain for better compensation packages given the stressful nature of their work.

In 2013, then senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed the Magna Carta for Call Center Workers. She re-filed the bill in 2015 but the same is still pending.

The Courier tried to get the comment of officials from the Baguio City Economic Zone, since last week but our call has not been returned.

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