Two Ways to Destroy RP’s BPO Industry: Forced Unionization and Government Intervention

The photo above speaks for itself. It shows the image of a dyed-in-the-wool communist named Rey Refran who works in the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. A typical leftist, Mr. Refran calls for the abrogation of private property, confiscation and nationalization of industries, banning of foreign (particularly American) investors, and communal way of life (ala North Korea).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against people who work in the BPO market. In fact, I admire them for their patience, skills and perseverance. These are the people who work graveyard shifts. The nature of their work and the level of skills and competitiveness it requires make it the highest-paying industry in the country, and this is the reason why it continues to attract young and competitive people.

However, I am disgusted by people, especially the industry’s supposed beneficiaries, who call for its destruction via government control and unionization.   

What Mr. Refran and his fellow leftists working as call center agents don’t understand is that BPO is the only industry wherein foreigners are allowed to invest and own 100% of their equity under our PEZA law. All industries are either off-limits or partially limited to foreigners. Why is this the case? Well, it’s because BPO is considered export-oriented. BPO investors are not a threat to our local industries, oligarchs and cronies. In fact, their foreign direct investment (FDI) benefits local businesses and established corporatists like the Lopezes who now have their own call center companies.

As the title of this blog states, there are two ways to destroy the call center or BPO industry in the country– 1) through forced unionization and 2) massive government control or intervention. By “forced” unionization I mean state-imposed unionization of the whole industry.

A lot of propaganda articles, op-eds and pseudo-studies have emerged denouncing call center companies’ alleged union busting and “no union, no strike” policy. This is just the beginning of the leftists’ demoralization process. Their objective is to exploit a perceived problem in order to manufacture dissent. This rabble-rousing  tactic is designed to alienate people, particularly call center employees, and to incite violence.

After posting the above photo on this group, someone called my attention to an article titled Modern Day Sweatshops in the Service Sector: Business Process Outsourcing in the Philippines published by Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc.

While scanning this 151-page article on my computer, the following paragraph caught my attention:

 “EPZs in the Philippines are notorious for their unwritten “no union, no strike” policy, where workers are blatantly discouraged from forming and joining unions. According to the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), an organization of workers in Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), it has been a practice among companies in a zone to have a “black list” of names of workers who are active in forming unions. The list is updated and shared with all firms operating in the enclave and serves as reference when conducting background investigations of applicants during the pre-employment process.” (pp. 145)

I made the following comment:

The author of that leftist farticle obviously doesn’t understand the nature of the BPO industry. Perhaps he receives a fixed salary every month regardless of his job performance. The best way to kill the industry and to scare BPO investors away is to UNIONIZE it and put it under government control. You cannot unionize an industry whose success or failure is based on performance quality. It is a performance-based industry. It is, in fact, the most competitive industry in the country. Because it is performance-based, it has the highest turn-over rate.

I remember an old friend in law school who worked as a call center agent while struggling to finish her studies. It was this friend who encouraged me to apply for a call center job. I tried my luck, but I didn’t get the job for saying my expected salary is P24k for an entry level position (lol). We talked about possible unionization of the BPO industry, as we were classmates in Labor Standards.

I asked her: “Would you approve of the unionization of the call center industry?”

My friend said: “Hell, NO!” She said she understood the nature of a call center job, which is very demanding and is performance-based.

We both understood that any law that would force call center companies to apply regularization regardless of employee performance and record would not only kill the industry; it would also KILL existing accounts.

The article also states:

Despite the fact that the right to freedom of association is clearly stated under the Philippine Labor Code, the government has been silent on this antiunion practice among BPO firms in SEZ. The cheap labour policy indeed has been effectively paired with docile and unorganized labor for foreign investments.”

I must restate this line from the article: “”it has been a practice among companies in a zone to have a “black list” of names of workers who are active in forming unions.”

But that’s certainly part of the rights of employers. There is no such thing as a right to a job, because that’d mean any employer is obliged by law to provide jobs to people regardless of their ability or skills. Jobs are produced; they don’t grow on trees. People who are good at what they do at work are offered regularization. That has been the practice long before the introduction of labor standards and practices by governments via social legislation.

The following paragraph takes the cake (and made me LOL):

“With the BPO as its sunshine industry, the government continues to emphasize the service sector over the agriculture and industrial sectors of the economy and reduce its draw further away from an economic development model with genuine agrarian reform and the promotion of national industries, economic policies that are in the interest of the majority of the Filipino people.”

The author is trying to imply the BPO industry thrived and continues to thrive because of government “emphasis” on the service sector “over agriculture and industrial sectors”.

How did the BPO industry thrive in the first place? It’s because of foreign investors who were allowed to invest here and own up to 100% of their equity. It is the only industry wherein foreigners are allowed 100% ownership. That’s the reason. The degree to which the government kept its hands OFF the sunshine industry corresponds to the degree of its success and continued growth.

The truth is, the BPO industry did not grow or expand due to government intervention. Instead, it grew because of the government’s hands-off policy.

SECOND UPDATE:

I just learned that a so-called BPO workers’ welfare bill was filed (for the third time) in Congress. Here’s a related report from Manila Bulletin:

All Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers may soon be regularized and be automatically entitled to medical benefits under a bill refiled by a group representing the youth sector.

Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon refiled the House Bill 1180 or the “BPO Workers’ Welfare and Protection Act of 2013,” which seeks to improve work conditions in the BPO sector.

The measure was first filed in the 14th Congress by former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

“With the growing number of Filipinos – mostly from the youth sector – working in BPO companies, it is but right for Kabataan Partylist to refile this important piece of legislation, which reasserts the prescribed labor standards set forth in the Labor Code and institutionalize additional benefits that would hopefully address specific work-related problems and issues peculiar to the nature of BPO work,” he said in a statement.

HB 1180 calls for the regularization of all BPO workers upon the sixth month of employment as trainee or apprentice, or upon the completion of a maximum probationary training period of six months.

Under the bill, the BPO workers are entitled to the following benefits: standardized restroom breaks not shorter than five minutes each, with intervals of two hours during their working hours; medical benefits upon entry in the BPO company and not merely upon regularization and right to Self-Association, to engage in Collective Bargaining, and to participate in Democratic Exercises.

I made the following comment on this Facebook group where the above article was posted:

These people are too clueless and have been purely motivated by their ideology. I am not against “regularization”. But I believe regularization must be a free, un-coerced choice and decision on the part of the employer. In fact, companies that want tokeep their competent and high-performing are the ones that offer regularization. Di ba usually tinatanong ng mga employers, “do you see yourself as a long-time member of this company?” Kaya nga usually may contract na ino-offer ang mga call centers. Ung iba they require bond once they hire their employees. Kasi trainee pa lang sila, may sahod na. That shows the determination of call center companies to train people and keep high-performing staff. The industry is VERY, VERY COMPETITIVE.

“All Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers may soon be regularized and be automatically entitled to medical benefits under a bill refiled by a group representing the youth sector.”

May regularization na nagaganap sa mga call center companies. What do you call those promoted to admin positions? Ang gusto nila, training pa lang regularized na hahahaha! Mga tamad at walang alam sa economics.

Medical benefits? Aren’t all call center companies offering medical and dental and so on benefits? May pa-BIGAS pa nga yong iba to attract employees. Ung iba daw may libreng pagkain.

These leftists in the BPO industry are obviously spreading lies and trying to alienate people and to MANUFACTURE DISSENT only to pursue their agenda. Yong iba may balak mag-politiko kasi nga nasama na sila sa PARTY-LIST system.

 I think the BPO industry simply shows the benefits of competition among companies. Competition mainly benefits workers, as companies are forced to provide higher compensation package and benefits to attract skilled, competent agents. Alam ko ‘to kasi I had friends in law school na mga call center agents who shared their experiences. Once na rin akong nag-apply… for fun kasi wala naman akong balak mag-call center, as I knew napaka-hirap at challenging yong job. You need to work you ass off to sell (for outbound agents). Pag wala kang benta, pwede kang tanggalin. Ganyan talaga ang buhay.

A Facebook participant agreed saying: “In short, it’s the free market system makes these BPO companies competitive, not government regulations.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s