Holness sees possible gains from BPO’s COVID-19 crisis response

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says that over 40 business process outsourcing (BPO) centres have already been cleared to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He told the House of Representatives Tuesday night that the number represents more than 50 per cent of the BPOs and that, at the same time, the companies have increased staff working from home to 33 per cent..

“The others are at varying degrees of compliance. We are working to meet the compliance standards and we are expecting that when the present order expires, all the BPOs [will be up to standard],” he said.

Jamaica’s BPO industry was shuttered for 14 days from April 21, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus across the island. The lockdown also affected 13,000 BPO employees working from home.

But on Tuesday, the prime minister was confident that the Government used the right approach to deal with the risk of further spread of the virus, which started in a single company, Alorica, and spread to more than 200 contacts at the same site.

“What they are saying to us is that we may need to consider new regulations to cover their emerging way of operating, [including working from home],” Holness said.

He noted that the BPO market is very competitive, as Jamaica is competing against countries like Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the Phillipines, India, and Panama.

However, he said that Jamaica has been doing very well because, in less than a decade, the local sector has grown business significantly to have approximately 40,000 people working in the industry.

“In the last five years it has doubled. We cannot allow the industry to suffer, but the industry will have to adjust and the Government is working, hand in hand, to ensure that it is able to adjust very quickly to the new work normal that has to emerge,” the prime minister said.

He said that at the end of the day other countries, which have taken more drastic actions such as closing and shutting them down totally, may actually have lost business.

“Jamaica has not, to my knowledge, lost any business, other than what would have been related to tourism, and the potential is that we may well gain if we are able to, very quickly, come out of this period of probation with stronger workplace protocols and stronger support for the regulation of the industry,” Holness said.

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