Greed reigns over employees’ safety — Baguio BPO employees


BAGUIO CITY — BPO workers in Baguio said the death of call center agents of the Survey Sampling International (SSI) in Davao only shows how vulnerable the BPO workers are under employers who give priority to profit over employees’ safety as they lit candles for the victims last January 3.

SAFETY FIRST. Call center workers in Baguio City lighted candles for the 37 call center agents killed when fire gutted a mall in Davao City as they called on government to ensure that companies comply with safety standards in work places. Photo by Divine Loraine Peñaflor

It can be recalled that 37 SSI call center agents were suffocated to death from the fire that gutted the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) in Davao last December 24.

At the candle lighting, Vicente Toca III of the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) Baguio said that based on reports about the tragedy, the 37 SSI employees were trapped inside their workplace but could not even use their mobile phones to call for help. He said that it is a common policy of the BPO employers to let their employees put their cell phones in their designated lockers before going to the production floor.

“Ipinagbabawal kasi nila ang pagdadala ng cell phones sa loob ng production floor para daw maiwasan ang pagkopya ng dokumentos gamit ang camera ng kanilang cell phones,” (Bringing in cell phones to the production floor is prohibited to avoid copying documents through cell phone cameras ) said Toca.

Joel Capulong of the Sitel Philippines Association of Rank and File Workers (SPARK-BIEN Baguio) revealed that in Sitel Baguio, workers were scared when a 4.6 magnitude earthquake occurred late December. He said that even if the building where their production area is located was shaking, they were told by the company authorities not to panic and not to drop their ongoing calls.

Capulong said that many of the workers not only of Sitel but other companies inside the Baguio Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) may not have been present when a strong earthquake shook Baguio in July 16, 1990 where many died when structures collapsed including some in PEZA but they know the story and cannot help but fear for their lives during that short quake. He said that instead of letting the employees evacuate to safer places until safety is ensured, they were only ordered to hold on to their respective bases and continue entertaining their clients.

“Ganito talaga ang gawi ng mga may-ari ng mga BPO companies na kung saan wala silang pakialam kung ano ang mangyayari sa kanilang empleyado basta hindi maiistorbo ang pagsilbi nila sa mga kliyente at tuloy-tuloy ang pagkamkam nila ng ganansiya kahit tuwirang nalalabag na ang batas sa paggawa lalo na sa kaligtasan sa loob ng pagawaan, dagdag pa nito ang matinding pananamantala nila sa mga empleyado sa oras sana ng pahinga at iba pang benepisyo,” (This is the common practice of the owners of BPO companies where they do not care what will happen to their employees as long as their services for their clients will not be disrupted and the accumulation of gains will continue even if labor laws especially on the occupational health and safety standards are being violated, in addition is the disregard by employers of the rights of employees to rest periods and other benefits) said Toca.

Toca said the government while conducting a thorough investigation on the tragic Davao burning, should also seriously look into the true situation of BPO workers in all BPO companies in the country and ensure that their rights and welfare are being respected. #


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