MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine business process outsourcing industry is alarmed by a US bill, which is aimed at discouraging American companies from outsourcing their call center operations.
Jojo Uligan, executive director of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, said the US bill is a cause of concern for the industry.
Even if the call centers are doing very well, there is still a lot of people unemployed. Pag nawala pa paano na... This is a concern for the industry... Kahit nga may call center industry madami pa ang walang trabaho dito what more kung naipasa pa ang batas na yan," Uligans said.
The outsourcing workforce grew about 10% in 2011 to 600,000, according to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines. More than 60% of the workforce are call center agents, who field telephone inquiries and sell products to customers around the world.
Many American companies have been outsourcing their call center services to the Philippines and India in recent years, since wages here are much lower than in the US. The monthly salary of an entry-level call center worker is about P14,000-P20,000 ($325-$465).
Some Americans blame outsourcing for the lack of job opportunities in the US, which continues to grapple with high unemployment. This has prompted lawmakers in the US Congress to draft a bill that aims to protect jobs of American call center agents.
House Bill (HB) No. 3596, the “Call Center and Consumers Protection Bill" was filed by Reps. Tim Bishop (Democrat, New York), David Mckinley (Republican, West Virginia) and Mike Michaud (Democrat, Texas) last December 7.
Under the bill, companies that have call centers overseas would be ineligible for grants and guaranteed loans from the federal government. It also proposes a $10,000 a day penalty on US call centers that fail to report its relocation to an offshore location within 60 days to the Labor department.
Also under the bill, call center operators will be required to identify their location. Callers will also be allowed to choose an operator who is based in the US.
The US bill is also causing worry among call center agents.
"Medyo unfair yun dahil iyon ang number one na pinagkukunan ng trabaho ngayon dito sa Pilipinas," a male call center agent said.
A female call center agent said the US bill would adversely affect the employment of many young Filipinos. "Kawawa ang mga call center agents lalo na marami ang mga call center agents na nagtratrabaho tulad namin," she said.
The BPO industry members are set to meet with government agencies soon to come up with a contingency plan in case the call center bill is passed.
Labor Secretary earlier said the passage of the US bill may "adversely affect" operations of local BPOs and employment in the country
"Definitely it would impact on local BPO industry dahil maraming outsourcing companies ang US dito sa Pilipinas," Baldoz said. - Report from Bandila, ANC