In light of the reported displacement of some 1,000 workers in Sitel Philippines in Baguio, the city council on July 31, 2017 conducted an investigation that led to a planned welfare ordinance that will protect the rights of BPO employees.
“Baguio City Council’s plan to put in place a BPO Employees Welfare Ordinance is definitely a welcome development for BPO workers in Baguio and also for BPO employees all over the country,” said Mylene Cabalona, spokesperson of BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN).
The city council discussed the issue of security of tenure after members of Sitel Philippines Association of Rank and File (SPARK) Workers in Baguio opposed Sitel’s implementation of a redeployment scheme that rendered BPO employees in a floating status. This was after the succeeding pulling out of accounts in Sitel in the last three months.
“This is an initial victory for the workers. We are hopeful that the planned ordinance, the first ever when realized, can strengthen BPO workers’ rights especially the right to security of tenure and right to organize unions, both of which are being gravely violated by BPO companies inside and outside of Baguio City,” Cabalona added.
The labor group added that efforts that will institutionalize protection and promotion of BPO workers rights are very much needed especially now that the IT-BPO industry boasts of a continuous growth, employing more than a million Filipino workers.
The economy is projected to expand at the rate of 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year, and it’s no secret that the BPO industry is one of the primary factors that is pushing the country’s upward trajectory. This economic boost has been an ongoing collective effort from BPO employees who mostly work night shifts, enduring fatigue, disorientation, disturbed sleep, heart problems and manic depression due to the disruption in their body clock.
However, there may be another issue that raises concerns regarding the plight of BPO employees: technology’s continuous evolution.
Attending the Philippines-Singapore Business Council (PSBC) Conference last week, former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Cielito F. Habito said artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics have started cutting incomes across the globe. Habito said there’s a chance AI could replace people employed in industries such as BPO.
“Maybe in 10 years or so, those in BPOs will be jobless. Artificial intelligence is taking over, so lets enjoy it [BPO] while it’s still there, but we should already plan for the era after that,” Habito added.
BIEN vowed to campaign and rally support for the welfare legislation in Baguio, and in other cities with BPO-IT hubs as well.