Self-regulation in BPO firms could worsen labor abuse

The labor department’s push for self-regulation in business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in the country will only embolden outsourcing firms in violating labor rights with impunity, according to a labor advocacy group.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler) said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s promotion of self-regulation in the industry essentially puts its workers closer to abuse of their employers as the government abrogates its role to protect and uphold labor rights in BPOs.

“We are seriously alarmed with Secretary’s Baldoz’s pronouncement since such move emboldens foreign outsourcing firms in preserving dismal working conditions in BPO hubs and in implementing worse forms of labor exploitation,” said Eiler executive director Anna Leah-Escresa Colina.

“If the government itself cannot protect BPO workers from dismal labor conditions and uphold workers’ rights in BPOs, how can we expect foreign firms to do so under self-regulation,” she added.
Eiler said Secretary Baldoz’s pronouncement that self-regulation will allow companies a “built-in flexibility to do business” bodes worse forms of contractualization, irregular work and skewed pay schemes in the local BPO industry.

BPO firms are currently centers of contractualization and irregular work, according to Eiler. It has 208,316 non-regular workers, or close to one-third of the total 731,548 non-regular workers in all industries. Non-regular workers include contractual, casual, seasonal, apprentice, and probationary workers.

“Also, there is no single existing union in the local outsourcing industry which employs around 600,000 voice and non-voice BPO workers, an alarming fact which self-regulation will definitely not address,” said Escresa-Colina.

She said that if self-regulation would be encouraged and there is no organization to represent workers, it would merely be part of a “good publicity stint” for the BPO sector.

“Instead, self-regulation will point to stricter regulation of BPO workers’ activities and unfettered abuse of workers’ rights by these foreign companies. It virtually hands BPO firms all the power and mandate to do whatever they want to do with Filipino workers,” said Escresa-Colina.

“Rather than pushing for self-regulation in the BPO industry, what DOLE should do is to promote the rights of BPO workers inside the workplace. Supporting the House Bill 2592 (HB 2592) or the BPO Workers Welfare Act filed by Kabataan Party List would be a good step forward,” she added.

HB 2592 pushes for the recognition of BPO workers’ right to self-association and collective bargaining, as well as protection of employees from sexual and political discrimination, among others.

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