As a DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment)-registered association of call center workers for mutual aid and protection, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) calls on Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to investigate BPO (business process outsourcing) sweatshops. Such an investigation should complement the proposed Magna Carta for Call Center Workers she just refiled.
We welcome Senator Santiago’s proposal and we are willing to engage her on its provisions. We therefore ask her to hold hearings about the proliferation of sweatshops in the BPO industry, as a step toward her bill’s refinement. Sweatshop conditions, not just stressful work, are a problem of BPO employees.
One such BPO sweatshop is a call center in Cebu City’s Asiatown IT Park. Earlier this year, 76 of its workers filed cases of illegal closure, nonpayment of salaries and nonremittance of their mandated benefits at the Region 7 branch of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
A group of call center workers in Metro Manila, also recently complained of underpayment of wages and nonpayment of benefits against their former employer. Six former employees of an Ortigas-based call center filed cases at the NLRC last May 20 for violations of labor standards, including illegal dismissal. The workers alleged in their complaint that they were paid only P200 a day and received no overtime pay, holiday pay, rest day premium, service incentive leave, 13th-month pay and cost of living allowance. The Social Security System has verified that the company, indeed, was not remitting deductions.
A sunshine industry and dollar-earning sector like the BPO should have no room for sweatshops. The government must strictly regulate this fast-growing industry in the interest of more than 600,000 BPO workers. To be sure, the two BPO firms referred to earlier in this letter are not the only BPO sweatshops around.
I was one of some 600 employees laid off when another call center abruptly shut down in July last year. After a few months of protests, we got our money claims and separation pay. As a result of that labor dispute, ICCAW was formed to be a voice for BPO workers regarding specific grievances and general concerns.
—SYLVIO DORIG JR.,
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers,
Workers Development Center,
Barangay Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City