BIEN urges local candidates to support BPO workers

BAGUIO CITY — The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) Baguio Chapter appealed to local candidates to support the passage of the proposed ordinance to protect BPO employees.

“It’s been 22 months now since the issue of massive illegal dismissal and exploitation among rank and file call center agents shook the citizens and the entire BPO industry in the city of Baguio. There were no concrete actions despite our appeals and protests,” BIEN Baguio president Joel Capulong lamented.

According to the group, the Committee on Employment, Livelihood and Cooperatives, and Person with Disabilities through the initiative of Councilor Arthur Allad-iw submitted a draft ordinance “Protecting the Rights, Welfare and Safety of Employees in the Information Technology-Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector in the City of Baguio” for the consideration of the
city council.

He said that BPO companies like Sitel Philippines (renamed Acticall Sitel Group), Convergys (eventually merged with Concentrix), Teleperformance, and Intercontinental Hotel Groups are still implementing unjust policies like the 8-point attendance system, metric system, plotted pre-shift and post-shift overtimes, skyrocketing scorecard goals, and (vis-a-vis) stagnant salaries.

Capulong said the 8-point attendance system, which facilitates a systematic attrition in attendance points, is the newest scheme to exploit front liner call center agents. Among the companies in the city that currently implements the system is Concentrix.

He explained that under the policy, tardiness and absences, even for justified reasons like sickness, are not given consideration.

Based on the system, .25 will be accumulated for every 1-5 minutes tardiness (or
leaving early), .5 for being late 5 minutes – 4 hours, and 1 point for more than 4 hours late or missing the entire shift. Any employee who accumulates 8 points can be terminated. On
the other hand, .25 will be deducted if an employee will be able to render 15 days or 120 hours without being late.

“In a consultation with our fellow workers, Frederick and Ashley (not their real names), the two said they need to maintain the 8 points set by the company otherwise they will be suspended or terminated,” shared the BIEN official.

Capulong added that there is also the plotted pre-shift and post-shift overtimes in which employees are forced to render extra hours prior or after the 8 working hours required by the labor code. Any employee who fails to render the said plotted overtime will receive a notice to explain and will be subjected to possible suspension or termination.

Besides these unfair policies, he said their security of tenure is also a major issue among BPO workers.

He cited the experience with the filing of bankruptcy by Sears Holding Corporation (SHC), one of the biggest companies in the United States availing the service of Sitel, in the last quarter of 2018.

This, according to him, resulted in the streamlining of employees working as customer service representatives for Sears online shopping, home delivery, installation and other services.

Based on the records provided by BIEN, there are approximately 379 rank and file employees in Sitel Baguio working for Sears in January of this year.

In a consultation with the affected employees, BIEN discovered that 70-75 percent of the whole workforce was already removed from the account. It is not clear until now if they were transferred to another account, terminated
or resigned.

Capulong said BIEN requested for the official copy of the “transferred” employees from the human resource office but it was denied. But the office informed the group that the employees were already transferred to other accounts and were already undertaking trainings.

“It is commendable if ever Sitel did transfer the employees to other accounts without going through another round of test and interviews,” he said.

However, the BIEN president expressed doubt on the verbal statement made by Sitel.

“We will still pursue our demand for the company to provide a copy of the official list of the employees who were transferred and retained,” he stated. Besides the support from the local candidates, BIEN also appealed to call center agents and IT workers to vote for the candidates that have openly declared support for
their demands.