This new proposed bill in Congress for call center agents revitalized my fervor in blogging today as I can’t help but be amused as how its details are so similar to existing labor laws already. I was planning to blog about a different story today but I felt discussing this bill’s flaws presents more urgency.
For those unfamiliar with House Bill No. 6921 or the act ensuring the welfare and protection of business process outsourcing workers and the recognition of their rights as provided for in the labor code of the Philippines. You may click on the link above to read the lengthy speech made by Mr. Raymond Palatino describing “deplorable” conditions in our workplace. Contrastingly enough, the subsequent bill presents no unique substance that can impact our welfare and can be considered academic.
Our BPO labor force is the industry’s most precious asset no doubt. However, we need no special bill to reiterate our basic rights as citizens. We do realize that we are special in some ways but we need no special treatment apart from our counterparts in other industries. We just need to supplement existing laws with creative ideas that will cater to our needs as workers and as citizens. The root of this problem lies within laws’ enforcement and not caused by lack of legislation.
*credit goes to targana.com for the image.
To stress my point about this House bill’s redundancy, let me point out several sections that are already in the Philippine Labor Code.
House Bill no. 6921 Sections 13, 14, 15 and 16 – Regarding regular hours of work, overtime and night differential. This is already stipulated in the labor code of the Philippines Articles 83 to 87.
House Bill no. 6921 Section 18 – About working on holidays. This is already found on LC Book 3 chapter 2 articles 92 to 94.
House Bill no. 6921 Section 8 – Concerning right to self-organization, to engage in collective bargaining agreement and to participate in democratic exercises. This is lengthily discussed in the original Philippines Labor code book 5 chapter 2 articles 248 to 259.
I can go on and on but fact of the matter is any good lawyer can clearly say that provisions in this house proposal are just duplicates of existing laws. As I have said above, the problem lies with awareness of personal rights by workers themselves and enforcement. Based on experience in the past years I’ve worked as a call center agent, supervisor and call center manager, people are rarely aware of our laws concerning labor especially with the details. Additionally, BPO companies that are most likely to break existing laws are small operators.
Because I want this composition to be constructive as well, I will cite some creative suggestions that will have an impact for our fellow BPO workers.I’ll also name areas of the law where we need stricter enforcement in the business process outsourcing industry.
1. Set aside a day when employees can enjoy a rest day if in case they need to be working on legal holidays. The rest day must be as near as possible to the holiday date so they can enjoy being with their families. Some companies already implement this by using the “skeletal system”.
2. Transparent system of wage computation, disputes and resolution.
Additional suggestions post-writing:
1. Create an audit system for labor compliance of BPO’s – by regular visits of special auditing reps to unsure compliance.
2. Ensure managers and supervisors are updated with the labor code through testing and continuous education.
3. Abolish call center associations’ blacklist of call center applicants.
Enforcement are needed in the following areas.
1. Issues with wages and back pay.
2. Issues with bonds and non-compete clauses.
3. Granting of leaves
4. Rest periods or breaks.
5. Due process in corrective action proceedings.
6. Timely payment, reporting and reflection of SSS, Pag-Ibig and Philhealth contributions.
7. Issues on absences due to medical conditions.
8. Timeliness of regular salaries.
9. Abusive officer conducts.
10. Right to be employed without prejudice among call center association members.
As you may see, there are more enforcement issues than loopholes in our laws concerning BPO workers’ rights. As our numbers grow in the future, people that are able to raise issues for our benefit need to be in tune with our needs instead of acting only upon unsubstantiated reports. We need creative ideas and stricter enforcement, not restatement of the obvious.