(UPDATED 1:00 P.M.) MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday stressed that workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry cannot be made to go to work amid the heavy monsoon rains currently battering Metro Manila.
According to Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, even though clients of major BPO firms operating here are abroad, their employees are working here and are therefore part of the suspension issued by Malacañang on private offices.
“If your employer insists that you go to work, they must be able: (1) to guarantee your safety and (2) pay extra for your attendance,” Valte said through her Twitter account.
Valte’s statements were in reaction to several reports indicating that some BPO companies are “forcing” their employees to report to work despite floods in many parts of the nation’s capital.
Business Process Association of the Philippines President Benedict Hernandez, meanwhile, reiterated Valte’s position, saying employees can always decide to skip work should circumstances not allow them to report to the office.
“I don’t think [a BPO firm] can force employees to come to work. Employees can always file an emergency or a sick leave,” Hernandez told InterAksyon.com in a phone interview.
Hernandez, however, acknowledged that there are critical services that need to be up and running even at the height of disasters, in which case companies have the discretion to discontinue operations altogether.
In multi-site call centers, Hernandez said the protocol is to redirect calls and operations to other sites that are not affected by the heavy rains.
In the many years that BPOs have been operating in the country, Hernandez added that the government had left it to the companies’ discretion to suspend work or not during natural calamities.
The least they can do, he added, are provide transportation services to employees or provide shelter to workers inside their call centers.
Jose Mari Mercado, business development director at Convergys, said they have taken to turning their BPO sites into semi-evacuation areas for employees as many of them are stranded due to the heavy monsoon rains.
He emphasized that the security and safety of their employees remain paramount over potential revenues lost due to the possible paralysis of operations.
“Typically kasi, ngayon ang time ng uwian eh (this is their time off). So we’re just asking them to stay in the center and provide them shelter. Naka-setup yung (We’ve set up) game room and TVs so they can stay here comfortably,” Mercado told InterAksyon.com via a phone interview.
Mercado denied reports that they are forcing employees to report to work today, stressing that their policy that if employees are not able to come to work, “then they don’t need to.”
“It’s not that we are forcing them to work. Remember that we have a 24/7 operation, and our sites are designed to withstand floods,” Mercado explained.
“If they think they can go to work, then we’ll let them. In some cases, it’s actually safer to be in the center, and they can even earn extra money,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Contact Center Association of the Philippines said they are still clarifying with its members about the suspension of works due to the bad weather condition.
“We are still clarifying with our members. We have commitments with our clients. We cannot stop our operations,” Jojo Uligan, executive director of CCAP told Interaksyon.com.
Uligan noted that the call center industry is different from the other industries in the country.
He however said the safety of their employees is the industry’s top priority. “We also want to comply with the directive of the government,” Uligan added.
Uligan said the industry will make a decision within the day.
Last year, the call center industry earned $6.7 billion and employed 416,000.(With additional report from Darwin Amojelar)