BITU proposes new deal for BPO workers

President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), Senator Kavan Gayle, says that it shouldn’t be surprising that during the current coronavirus crisis, contact or call centre workers are facing unprecedented pressures specific to their jobs and work environment.

“Because of the massive worldwide upheaval against ‘business as usual’ in all sectors of the economy, contact (call) centre workers are being called upon to respond to public demand for customer service; technical support; assistance with Internet, mobile and phone services; online purchases; transportation re-booking; support for banking and financial issues; and health care responses, to name a few,” Senator Gayle said.

“So, at a time when many employers in other sectors are closing down their operations, placing workers on remote work or paid leave, and prioritising social distancing, contact (call) centres are faced with increased demands for their services, and their closure cannot be taken lightly,” he stated.

“This places contact centre workers in particularly vulnerable circumstances due to the nature of their workplaces, where large workforces are often concentrated in reduced spaces for long periods of time. The combination of demand for the work along with the workplace conditions in the contact centres mean workers employed in these settings must have at least the minimum standards,” he noted.

He said that these minimums standards should be strengthened through negotiation between the owners and the workers’ representatives, as well consultation with medical professionals and government officials responsible for public health in the country of operation.

However, Senator Gayle noted that there are no consultations between the management of the business process outsourcing (BPO)entities and any of the trade unions, and his union has found a reluctance within the industry to accept them as viable partners.

“The BITU has always shown keen interest keen interest in the growth of this new class of workers, and the union values their importance as pioneers in this new digital era and accept the fact that both the employers and employees in this sector are pioneers in a field that very soon will become the most important link between businesses and their customers,” he stated.

Senator Gayle added that his union’s interest in the blossoming BPO field is not merely to recruit members to increase its revenues, but to provide erudite representation on the various issues which will arise when these sensitive institutions are going through a normal weaning period.

He said that there is a need for the private sector to recognise these problems from early and for Government to recognise the importance of call centres to the recovery and growth of the economy after COVID-19 has passed.

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