BIEN, other groups file SC petition for mass testing

As COVID 19 cases continue to rise in the Philippines, the BPO Industry Employees Network joined other groups of concerned citizens in filing a mandamus petition before the Supreme Court on July 3 “to compel” the country’s executive department particularly the Department of Health, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and other agencies involved in addressing the pandemic “to conduct mass testing, efficient contact tracing and isolation and effective treatment of positive cases.”

Mylene Cabalona, President of BIEN said that “effective and fast conduct of these 3Ts, testing, tracing, treatment, is crucial to keep workers and our community safe from COVID 19.”

Several reports from call center workers where workers tested positive for COVID 19 according to BIEN. In one call center in Bridgetown Pasig, eight workers tested positive for COVID19 while working on site during the period of enhanced community quarantine even as these workers were already staying in a hotel provided by the company.

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4 in 10 BPO workers are in floating, NWNP status during lockdown

An online survey with 146 respondents conducted by the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) from May 19 to May 26, 2020 revealed that 37.7 percent or roughly 4 out of 10 BPO workers are either in floating or NWNP status. This means temporary job loss for a lot of BPO workers as a result of various factors related to the COVID pandemic.

Half of the respondents said they are working from home, while only 8 percent or a total of 12 respondents said that they are working on site at the time of the survey. Only 4 respondents said they continue to get paid even if they are unable to come to work.

Sixty three percent of the respondents are women. There seems to be a slightly  higher proportion of women who are in NWNP or floating status than men. Two of every three employees in NWNP status are women while 7 out of 10 of those in floating status are also women. Meanwhile, 6 out 10 of those who work from home are also women.

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BIEN raises challenges of Work-At-Home agents, employment woes amid pandemic

As many BPO companies shifted from on-site to work from home arrangements due to the pandemic, BPO workers found themselves facing a ‘new norm’ with a new set of challenges characterized by a tighter race for productivity and flexibility that drags down wages and  attacks right to security of tenure, according to the BPO Industry Employees Network.

“When work-from-home arrangements were offered by BPO companies, it was a welcome development since workers do not need to report on-site which is safer given the pandemic. But new issues for workers came up, ranging from lack of logistical assistance such as delivery of equipment, longer working hours for workers to compensate for ‘low productivity’, unpaid wages due to poor internet connections, unjust sanctions to employees due to technical problems, and passing on of internet and utility expenses by companies to workers,” explained Sarah Prestoza, BIEN Vice President.

Setting up work from home didn’t go so smoothly for workers even if their companies provide this option for their workforce. “Some BPO companies did not even bother to assist their employees to set up work at home arrangement which should have been proactively initiated by the companies and not by the employees. It was disheartening to hear stories of workers walking long distances from home to office just to pick up equipment. The absence of public  transportation made this task doubly difficult as workers also become exposed to COVID-19,” Prestoza added.

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