Sunday, July 7, 2013

Group challenges Miriam to investigate BPO sweatshops

Press Release
July 7, 2013
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

A newly formed group of call center workers called on Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to investigate what it called “BPO sweatshops” in the interest of protecting workers rights in the industry. Santiago had refiled a bill seeking a Magna Carta for Call Center Workers.

“We welcome Miriam’s proposed bill for call center employees and we are willing to engage her on its provisions. And as step towards its refinement we ask her to hold hearings in aid of legislation about the proliferation of sweatshop labor conditions in the BPO industry. Sweatshop conditions not just stressful work are a problem of BPO employees,” averred Sylvio Dorig, spokesperson of Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW).

ICCAW is a DOLE-registered workers association for mutual aid and protection. Dorig cited as concrete examples the plight of employees of Cordia Philippines, a call center based in Cebu City’s Asiatown I.T. Park. Earlier this year some 76 Cordia workers filed cases of illegal closure, non-payment of salaries and non-remittance of their mandated benefits at the Region 7 branch of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

He also recalled that a group of call center workers in Metro Manila recently complained of underpayment of wages and non-payment of benefits against their former employer. Six ex-employees of the Ortigas-based E-Global International Communications Inc. owned by Mr. Eugene Go filed cases at the NLRC last May 20 for violations of labor standards including illegal dismissal.

“We were paid only P200 a day for the five months that we worked at E-Global. Further we received no overtime pay, holiday pay, rest day premium, service incentive leave, 13th month pay and cost of living allowance,” averred Jiaffy Domingo, one of the E-Global call center agents.

With the assistance of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the E-Global workers were able to verify with the Social Security System that the company was not remitting deductions. A notice was sent to E-Global to comply within a month’s time after which a case can then be filed against the company.

PM national chair Renato Magtubo averred that “A sunshine industry and dollar earning sector like the BPO should have no room for sweatshops. The government must strictly regulate this fast growing industry in the interest of more than 600,000 workers since E-Global and Cordia are not the only BPO sweatshops around.”

In July last year, some 600 employees were laid off overnight when the Cebu City-based Direct Access abruptly shutdown. After a few months of protests, the Direct Access workers got their money claims and separation pay. As a result of that labor dispute, ICCAW was formed to be “a voice for BPO workers regarding specific grievances and general concerns.”

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