De Lima bill pushes protection for BPO workers

Published May 1, 2021, 1:22 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to ensure the welfare and protection of workers in the country’s business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

(MANILA BULLETIN File Photo/Mark Balmores)

In filing Senate Bill No. 2149 last Wednesday, April 28, De Lima mentioned the growth of the BPO sector over the years, resulting in the Philippines being dubbed as the “BPO capital of the world.”

“BPO workers continue to face overly stressful workload due to impossibly high performance standards, inadequate restroom breaks and sudden changes in shift schedules that take a serious toll on their health,” De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, however, said.

“These struggles have been further exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. It resulted in temporary closures of businesses, and have pushed even the BPO industry to recalibrate in order to adapt to the changes that the ‘new normal’ entailed,” she added.

De Lima specifically noted that the lack of protection and support from the government.

She recalled that when enhanced community Quarantine (ECQ) was first implemented last year, many BPO workers were forced to endure long walks due to the lack of public transportation.

She also cited reports of employees being put on a “floating status,” where there is a temporary suspension of work of employees while they are still be considered as “hired”, but without the benefit of compensation. She filed a resolution last year calling for a Senate inquiry into such reports.

De Lima said that with her bill, she seeks to address gaps in current laws, as well as issues hounding the industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, among others, provides BPO workers access to relevant information, protection from understaffing or overloading, additional benefits to promote safety, health and overall wellbeing of employees.

It also includes provisions to ensure their security of tenure and the prohibition of floating while hiring. It also provide for pro-worker safety policies during natural disasters or dangers.

It also acknowledges the employees’ right to self-organization and money claims, as well as protection against discrimination.

The bill also reiterates their benefits and compensation under labor laws, such as overtime pay, night shift differential, and rest and meal periods.

“This bill aims to institutionalize more equitable arrangements in order to provide protection to both labor and capital, so that this industry will continue to thrive – this time in a robust environment that balances both the interests and welfare of employers and employees,” De Lima explained.