Call center or smoke center?
On its website, call center business Alorica asked: “What do we do?” It answered its own question with this line: “Make lives better.”
In 2016, Alorica reportedly opened thousands of positions in its customer engagement centers in the Philippines. One of its offices is located at the Ilocos Norte Centennial Arena in Laoag City.
This firm has indeed made lives better though online reviews disclosed problems on turnover rate, work environment, promotion, salaries and benefits. Such issues belong to corporate and labor forums. Interest in them may only arise from an employer-employee relationship.
But there is one issue in Alorica which definitely affects us all: health.
In Ilocos Norte, the Centennial Arena’s facade has practically become a “smoking center.”
Who turned this government building into a huge smoking area? Smokers from miles away? No! The health-conscious joggers from a nearby stadium? Certainly not!
It is more logical to point our fingers at employees of Alorica because it occupies — or controls? — a large portion of the building.
On May 16, President Duterte signed Executive Order 26 banning smoking in public places. EO 26 also prohibits the establishment of smoking areas in certain public places such as schools, stairwells and fire hazard locations.
But even with this order, the smoking sessions at the Centennial Arena, a public place, allegedly did not stop.
Take note that the Centennial Arena also houses the provincial library and the provincial education office.
It is located near the Ilocos Norte National High School, Ilocos Norte College of Arts and Trades, Rizal Park, Marcos Stadium and the College of Teacher Education of the Mariano Marcos State University.
An employee of the provincial education office disclosed that every time he goes to work, his clothes, hair and skin end up smelling like cigarette smoke. Why? The way to his workplace is riddled with smoking call center agents. Some students also complained about the “smoking torment” they need to endure before they could use the provincial library.
Circumstances like these expose the people in the area to second-hand smoke. Such exposure can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, lung cancer and other health issues.
Vapers likewise abound at the Centennial Arena. These “vaporphiliacs” definitely add to the horror. Although viewed as “lesser evil,” reports suggest that chemicals from vaping can damage lung tissue, provoking inflammation.
The matter may even affect psychological domain. Imagine what twisted social norm would be impressed in the young minds of students when they see smokers and vapers on a daily basis.
As stated earlier, Alorica made lives better. We salute them for that! But in making some lives better, other lives must not be sacrificed.
What must Alorica do? Simple! It must make its employees strictly follow the provisions of the smoking ban. Also, as a moral obligation, it must not allow its vaping employees set a bad example.
Lastly, the provincial government of Ilocos Norte should seriously look into the problem at the Centennial Arena.
There are other areas in the locality with similar problem. But what makes the case of Alorica pressing is that it is situated in the Sirib Mile, a project of Gov. Imee Marcos that aims to protect and develop the school belt along Ablan Avenue.
If smoking and vaping are allowed in this area, the provincial government’s efforts in enhancing educational environment will surely go up in smoke.
JORGE RICHARD P. GUERRERO, [email protected]
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