The struggle continues for Baguio’s BPO workers



As mentioned last week in part one, the employees from major Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies in the city are still facing rampant oppression due to unfair labor practices.
In this article, we will be discussing the major problems that have been affecting the rights and welfare of the rank and file employees or commonly known as call center agents. We can only understand the nature of work of the call center agents if we identify the differences between an outbound call center and an inbound call center.

Outbound call centers are those who make outgoing calls to sell products and services while inbound call centers are those who take incoming calls to place online orders, process refunds, provide order status, process return or repair, delivery status, product inquiry and others. In the case of Baguio City, major call center companies are typically inbound while we cannot deny the existence of small outbound call centers that are operating within and outside the Baguio City Economic Zone. Majority numbers of these are operating inside small houses with ten to twenty employees which are more prone to committing workers rights violations such as no Social Security System (SSS) and no Philhealth contributions.

The metric system

This is a system in which an agent is being scored and one of the metrics is the Average Handling Time or AHT. Just like the operation of major industries like factories, inbound and outbound call center agents are required to meet their quotas.

For inbound, an employee is expected to resolve the issue of the customer by meeting the AHT goal. If the ATH goal is four minutes, the agent should resolve and finish the call within four minutes; otherwise, it will be considered a markdown on the agent’s score card.
On the other hand, an outbound agent is expected to meet a certain number of calls to meet the quota and pass the metric. According to some outbound agents that are working inside PEZA, they are required to make a minimum of a hundred calls.

Another way of scoring an agent is through Net Promoter Score or NPS. This is a systematic way of sending emails or survey forms to the customers. Regardless how good and respectful the agents are when it comes to assisting the customers particularly for inbound, if the customers are not satisfied with the overall service such as rude delivery truck driver, slow process of refund, product quality and damaged products, the offshore agents who assisted the customers will be the ones suffering from negative feedbacks that will be sent through emails or survey forms.

Also, one of the oppressive metrics is the Lost Hours or LH. This is a systematic way of counting the “lost hours” from the plotted schedule of an employee for a particular fiscal month. In the case an employee will not be able to report to work due to sickness, the employee will be tagged as LH contributor and the number of minutes that the employee is out will determine the percentage or the gravity of the LH. As a consequence, the sick employee, regardless if it is acknowledged by a registered physician, will fail the LH. The employee then will not be entitled to Vacation Leaves within the next two months.

During trainings, the probationary employees are being advised that the metric system was created to monitor the effectivity of the calls particularly in the BPO industry. However, the actual experiences of the rank and file employees will reveal the harsh truth behind it. Just like the deregulation of oil prices in the world market, metric goals are also changing and these are frequently increasing rather than decreasing. The burden then will be on the part of the rank and file employees – failing the metrics will lead to termination of employment.

Company hopping

Metric system is seen by the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) Philippines that it is being used to justify the rampant constructive dismissals in the BPO industry not only in the city of Baguio but across the archipelago. As a result, affected call center agents are forced to resign if not being terminated because of the unattainable metric goals, and look for another BPO company. But since metric system is generally used in the BPO industry, the call center agents are now seen hopping from one BPO company to another. This is a manifestation that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) failed to fulfill their functions to provide long term employment for the Filipino people.

According to the primer entitled “Export Processing Zone: A Path Towards Industrialization?” that was published by the IBON Databank and Research Center in 2005, the “cheap labor costs, which include not only low nominal wages but also non-enforcement of workers’ rights, including the right to strike, are a decisive factor for foreign investors in making their investment decisions. Many foreign investors have in fact made it clear that the regulations restricting labor rights are a prerequisite for their investments.”

Meanwhile, a “Public Hearing on the Minimum Wage Adjustments for Formal Workers” was conducted on July 4, 2018 at the Hotel Supreme in Baguio by Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) – CAR. BIEN Baguio Chapter was able to attend the said “Public Hearing” and was able to denounce the proposed P15 increase (additional P5 on the basic salary and additional P5 on the Cost of Living Allowance) during the open forum. BIEN Baguio supports the call of the All Workers Unity for a national minimum wage of P750 per day for private workers and P16000 per month for government employees. #


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