By Mario Casayuran
Senator Imee R. Marcos called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday to investigate cases of worker abuse arising from flexible work arrangements as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis persists.
Marcos, chairperson of the Senate economic affairs committee, was referring to labor advisories issued in March and May requiring employee consultation before flexible work arrangements could be adopted.
She noted company managers were being accused of deciding on their own to withhold compensation especially of Filipino employees or to make them shoulder operational costs so that further losses in corporate income can be reduced.
Complaints reaching Marcos’s office, mostly from call center employees, include non-payment of salaries in the past 60 to 90 days, denial of separation benefits for those laid off, unreimbursed costs for electricity and wifi access of night-shift employees working from home, extended home-based work shifts with no extra pay if system tools break down, and forced leave on maternity credits without assurance of being rehired.
“The complaints are not just coming out of smaller call centers but also from top-listed companies that were earning billions in annual income. One even reportedly cut its workforce to less than half,” Marcos said.
“As stated in Labor advisories 9 and 17 this year, flexible work arrangements should go through employee consultation and be reported by companies to the nearest DOLE office with jurisdiction over the workplace. Companies must also provide adequate support for those working from home, according to number 17, which also echoes the Labor Code on separation pay and benefits,” she explained.
Marcos urged the DOLE to monitor corporate compliance more closely, “since labor abuse during the pandemic may be more widespread than just within the BPO industry.”
“BPO’s must take care of their employees in anticipation of a bounce-back in business post-COVID, as companies in other sectors will turn to outsourcing services to cut costs,” she explained.
Marcos said that Labor secretary Silvestre Bello said Sunday that the BPO industry was showing signs of a resurgence amid the pandemic and would be providing 6,000 more jobs in the near term.
The BPO industry’s contribution to the country’s economy has grown from a mere 0.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2000 to an estimated 12 percent last year.
The Philippines overtook India in 2017 as the main destination for BPO services with a workforce of 1.4 million, a figure that was projected to reach 2.5 million this year, based on industry growth trending at about 20 percent annually before the pandemic.