DOLE urged to probe alleged non-payment of call center agents' salaries during COVID-19 crisis

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2020 03:33 PM

Sen. Imee Marcos presides over a hearing on March 3, 2020. Alex Nueva España, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Monday urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to investigate alleged labor violations in call centers, saying she received reports that several agents have not received their salaries during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector was among the essential industries allowed to operate during the nearly 2-month long lockdown in Metro Manila and other regions.

"The complaints are not just coming out of smaller call centers but also from top-listed companies that were earning billions in annual income," Marcos said in a statement without naming particular companies.

Other BPO workers said some employees who were laid off were denied "of separation benefits," while other companies allegedly refused to "reimburse costs for electricity and Wi-Fi access of night-shift employees working from home" and declined to give extra pay for those working on extended shifts.

Some female call center workers were also asked to go on "forced leave on maternity credits," 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," the senator said, referring to a set of labor guidelines during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Companies must also provide adequate support for those working from home," she said.

"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," said Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

The BPO industry accounts for 12 percent of the Philippines' gross domestic product, and employs some 1.4 million workers.

Marcos said the DOLE should monitor corporate compliance more closely "since labor abuse during the pandemic may be more widespread than just within the BPO industry."