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Miriam files proposed Magna Carta for call center workers

By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) Updated November 21, 2010 12:00 AM

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MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a proposed

Magna Carta for Call Center Workers Act aimed at protecting the huge
workforce in this growing sector.

After returning from a recent visit to India, Santiago noted that the
Philippines is very close to overtaking India as the world’s leading destination
for business process outsourcing (BPO).

Because of this, she said that legislation is needed to support the growth of
this sector as well as to ensure the protection of the rights of the workforce.

“While the country’s economy owes a lot to the BPO sector, there is a need to
balance the legitimate business interests of BPO companies with the labor
rights of its employees,” Santiago said.

Under Senate Bill No. 2604, call center employees would be guaranteed the
following rights: the right to organize and join labor organizations; the right to
a safe and healthy working environment; the right to at least a one-hour
continuous meal break in the middle of every eight hour shift; the right to
privacy; safety for nightshift employees; and the right to be informed of the
terms and conditions of their contract.

Santiago cited reports reaching her office about the local BPO industry
discouraging the formation of labor unions.

“The Constitution guarantees all workers to self-organization, collective

bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the
right to strike in accordance with law. BPO companies in the country are not
exempt from this constitutional provision and should honor their employees’
rights,” she said.
Santiago said BPO companies need to maintain a safe and healthy working
environment, particularly in this line of work where health and occupational
hazards abound.

She cited reports from both the International Labor Organization and the
Department of Labor and Employment, which indicated that call center
agents were particularly susceptible to hazards such as stress, sleep
disorders, fatigue, eye strain and voice problems.

“These measures protecting call center employees cultivate lower attrition

rates and attract more job seekers to the BPO industry, making it stronger
and more productive. It therefore is in the interest of the BPO companies
themselves to protect their workers who are their most important resource,”
she said.

The senator noted that the projected voice-based customer support and sales
revenue for the Philippines this year was pegged at $5.7 billion. In contrast,
the projection for India was only $5.58 billion in revenue this year.

She said that there were also forecasts about the Philippines’ $9.5-billion BPO
industry overtaking India’s $12.4 billion in five years.