Sitel workers fear possible lay-off after Sears’ closure


BAGUIO CITY (Updated May 25, 8:58 am) — Workers of a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm in the city expressed concern on the possibility of unemployment after the company confirmed the account closure of one of its oldest client, the Sears Holding Corporation.

Sears is a US-based firm providing integrated retail merchandise and home service providers with over 14 million clients annually.

“Sitel finally broke its silence by confirming the closure of the Sears Holdings Corporation account after putting employees in limbo and agony about the state of affairs of the client corporation,” BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) Baguio chapter president Joel Capulong said.

He disclosed that on May 10, officials from Sitel met with the employees handling the Sears account to inform them of the termination of the service. Sitel services for the Sears account will officially end on June 30.

According to BIEN, the evaluation of workers in the Sears account started in December 2018 but Sitel only informed employees up for transfer and kept the information from the others. The company started its redeployment in January with only two batches remaining set for transfer on June 3 and July 1. *where will they be transferred? What is the meaning of transfer, is it essentially a lay-off?

“They said they are only streamlining the personnel as per request from Sears but we believe they were already informed of the closure the moment they started transferring workers from the account,” said the BIEN leader.

According to Capulong, Sitel operations manager Glory Boado explained the conclusion of the service provided by the company to Sears due to the bankruptcy protection filed by the corporation in mid-October last year.

“The management committed to redeploying the personnel holding account for Sears to other accounts without a final interview. However, the officials also underscored that employees cannot choose an account and they will still undergo account specific assessments,” he said.

Capulong explained that this means each individual have to undergo exams to measure their proficiency in the English language regardless of their years in the company.

The company assured the affected employees of their 15-day salary during the transition period said Capulong. However, he expressed apprehension on the response given by the company representatives when asked about the fate of employees who will fail the account specific assessment.

“According to our human resource manager, it will be ‘case-to-case basis’ and those who will ‘deliberately fail the exam will be terminated’. It is easy to say that an employee deliberately failed the exam but there is no perfect way to prove such case,” he said.

He also assailed the vague answers provided by the company, stressing that the officials failed to “assurance that every one of those from the Sears account will be retained.”

“These agents are regular employees and are entitled to security of tenure as stated in the Labor Code of the Philippines. That ‘case-to-case basis’ reasoning is merely an excuse to terminate workers,” Capulong said.

The BIEN Baguio president called on BPO employees to be vigilant against anti-labor policies. He urged his fellow Sitel personnel “not to be silent” until they get an assurance that all employees will be successfully redeployed to other accounts.

As of January 2019, BIEN recorded about 379 employees working as customer service representatives for Sears in Sitel Baguio. The group said the number gradually decreased since the first quarter of the year.

The group has been fighting BPO schemes denying workers of their security of tenure since 2017. Last year, the group petitioned the city council, through councilor Arthur Alladiw for an ordinance protecting workers and employees in the growing BPO sector in the city. #




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