BPO employment scheme earns flak

By JEOFFREY MHAR LARUA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — A group of call center agents from Baguio-based business process outsourcing (BPO) firm, Sitel, denounced their employer’s ‘deceptive’ and ‘unjust’ employment schemes after reports of massive lay-offs in one of the firm’s site here surfaced.

Multi-sectoral alliance Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU’s) publicized a statement, June 20, challenging Sitel’s ‘re-deployment’ program for its employees, alleging that it virtually disemploys workers. This was after newly-formed Sitel Philippines Baguio Association of Rank and File Workers (SPARK) sought TTU’s and the City Council’s help.

The group fears that the same scheme might apply to at least 1,000 employees who will face ‘re-deployment’ after the closure of accounts in Sitel’s Site 3 in Loakan.

Floating status

According to SPARK’s Vicente Toca III, the re-deployment program places an employee in ‘floating’ status after an account has closed while the management looks for a new one to deploy the employee. The catch, he says, is the employee will receive no pay.

Toca adds that Sitel’s strategy effectively had the firm evade accusations of retrenchment by having its workers sign a waiver indicating that while it is searching for accounts, an employee will have to go “back to zero”. The waiver also allows the employee to resign by handing in a letter to the firm’s human resource manager.

The re-deployment of an employee to a new account, according to Toca, may take as long as six months and will also entail a series of new exams and assessments. He adds that this disregards the length of service to the firm.

Toca has been with Sitel for four years until he received his waiver that placed him in the firm’s re-deployment program after an account’s closure last May.

‘No security, no rights’

Meanwhile, TTU discussed the dismantling of job security and disregard for workers’ rights in Sitel’s employment scheme.

“This current framework will mean more suffering, dislocation, and displacement of thousands of regular employees thereby extracting super profits from the sweat of BPO workers,” said TTU in its statement.

TTU, along with SPARK, is calling for cancelling of the firm’s redeployment program and the reversal of the ‘back-to-zero’ policy.

Nationwide support

The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), a nationwide network of BPO employees, also decried the looming ‘re-deployment’ of Sitel Baguio’s employees.

According to BIEN’s spokesperson Mylene Cabalona, a BPO client’s pull-out should not affect its workers right to security of tenure.

“Affected workers, especially regular employees, should not be assigned to floating status with no pay,” Cabalona said.

Cabalona highlighted that it is a “common practice” for BPO firms to reassign employees to a “floating” status after a client, in Sitel’s case, or an account pulls-out from the firm itself.

The group adds that the current situation in Baguio and in other BPOs in the country is proof of the “insecurity of jobs” and the “intensified exploitation” of Filipino BPO workers.

“The worsening condition of BPO workers is undeniable. We are challenged to unite and organize unions to assert protect and assert our rights, and demand new policies that will engender sustainable industries and employment for the people,” Cabalona said. # nordis.net

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