Gov’t seeks legal advice on whether quarantined BPO workers to be paid

THE Government has indicated that it will be seeking legal advice on whether workers from the business process outsourcing (BPO) outfit Alorica in Portmore, St Catherine, who have been quarantined due to COVID-19, will be paid for the period under lockdown.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness gave the undertaking in response to queries from Opposition Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern Fitz Jackson during a marathon parliamentary meeting that ended about 11:00 pm on Wednesday.

Jackson, in commenting on the matter, said if this was not the case, the workers should be incorporated in the Government’s COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme and treated as a special case.

Responding, the prime minister said the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service would have to be consulted on the proposal, but pointed out that the CARE package, which is part of the Administration’s stimulus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was already in train and allotments already marked.

He, however, said the issue would be put to industry operators in planned talks before the week is out.

“The question you have raised is one that must be raised with the industry,” Holness said.

In the meantime, Holness warned that even though significant investment has been made in the BPO sector, the Government was not averse to taking extreme measures in relation to it.

“We can restart businesses, but we do not know how to resurrect the dead,” he said.

He also said all BPOs in St Catherine have been closed. Holness further cautioned other operators elsewhere against hiring individuals from the affected entity.

The prime minister, who said intelligence had revealed that individuals have already started job hunting in other areas such as Hanover, noted that operators who hire these individuals would be sanctioned.

He said the affected workers have all been placed under a 14-day quarantine and cannot, during that time, be employed by anyone else.

A cluster of 52 cases of the COVID-19 virus emerging from the call centre led to a total lockdown of the parish of St Catherine by the Government on Wednesday.

— Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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