Imee Marcos calls on DOLE to probe alleged worker abuses in call centers amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Imee Marcos has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to probe cases of worker abuse arising from flexible work arrangements, especially in call centers, amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement issued on Monday, Marcos said her office received complaints, mostly from call center employees, claiming non-payment of salaries in the past 60 to 90 days.

Other complaints include denial of separation benefits of those laid off, unreimbursed costs of electricity and Wi-Fi access for night-shift employees working from home, extended home-based work shifts with no extra pay if system toll breakdown and forced leave on maternity credits without assurance of being rehired.

“The complaints are not just coming out of smaller call centers but also from top-listed companies that were earning billions in annual income. One even reportedly cut its workforce to less than half,” Marcos said.

“As stated in Labor advisories 9 and 17 this year, flexible work arrangements should go through employee consultation and be reported by companies to the nearest DOLE office with jurisdiction over the workplace,” she added.

“Companies must also provide adequate support for those working from home, according to number 17, which also echoes the Labor Code on separation pay and benefits,” she further stated.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, called on DOLE to closely monitor corporate compliance “since labor abuse during the pandemic may be more widespread than just within the BPO industry.”

“BPO’s must take care of their employees in anticipation of a bounce-back in business post-COVID, as companies in other sectors will turn to outsourcing services to cut costs,” Marcos said.

Marcos noted that the BPO industry’s contribution to the country’s economy has grown from a mere 0.7% of the gross domestic product in 2000 to an estimated 12% in 2019.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said that the BPO industry is showing signs of resurgence amid the pandemic.

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