BPO’s exemption from night-shift ban pushed

March 11, 2011

MANILA – Senators want to amend a provision of the labor code that seeks to better protect women, especially those in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies, working on graveyard shifts.
Senate President Pro Tempore “Jinggoy” Estrada, chairman of the Senate committee on labor, sponsored a committee report that aims to revise Article 130 of the Labor Code.
Article 130 of the Labor Code provides that, “No woman, regardless of age, shall be employed or permitted or suffered to work, with or without compensation.”
While Article 131 of the Labor Code listed some exceptions to Article 130, Estrada specifically pushes an exemption for call center employees.
The legislation, according to the senator, was prompted by a rising call to exempt women working in BPO companies from the ban.
The committee report, a consolidation of Estrada’s bill and one filed by Senator Francis Pangilinan, will allow the exemption if “increasing demand for work provides equal opportunities (for men and women) to work at night”.
The Philippines has already overtaken India as the world’s number 1 country for shared services and BPO.
Benedict Hernandez, president of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, in a recent television interview said that in 2009, about 300,000 were employed by the industry and in 2010, 350,000 are working in call centers in the Philippines compared to only 330,000 in India.
In terms of revenues, he said the Philippine call centers are expected to generate $5.7 billion in 2010 or $200 million higher compared to India’s $5.5 billion. BPO revenues are forecast to hit $9.5 billion. This is still behind India’s $12.4 billion but the Philippines is not only expected to catch up but overtake India in the next five years.
However, the BPO industry is not all good news as it is also being confronted by certain issues like health and safety.
“Call centers are operating on a 24-hour service. Most of these centers work in several shifts to provide for the 24-hour call center service. This necessitates the employment of men and women even after late hours of the night to wee hours of the morning,” Pangilinan’s explanatory note to his bill read.
Under the proposed amendment, employers will be required to ensure a work environment that protects women from “fear of danger and violence in relation with working at night”.
Pangilinan further said the original purpose of the ban in women working night shifts was the danger on the streets after dark.
The proposed amendment also comes as an answer to the call made by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) for government to lift the ban on women working the night shift as this has prevented more BPO companies from hiring more of them.
A book recently launched by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that young Filipino women dominate BPO jobs by up to 59.3 percent.
Pending the amendment of the law, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) has already issued an exemption to allow BPO companies to hire women to work in the night shift.
But the Dole exemption was criticized by the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development stating that recent studies have shown how night work increases the risk of getting breast cancer for women shift workers, noting that cancer caused by shift work is not a compensable disease in this country.
The ILO book said that night work is associated with occupational and safety and health issues such as sleep problems and fatigue.
Jon Messenger, one of the researchers and co-editor of the ILO book “Offshoring and Working Conditions in Remote Work” said, “Night work is often associated with occupational safety and health issues such as sleep problems and fatigue. Nearly half (47.7 percent) of BPO employees surveyed reported suffering from sleeping problems or insomnia.”
The ILO book also described BPO work organizations as “high-strain.” There are other causes of stress according to the book. Specifically, these were the stress-inducing factors cited by the employees surveyed: harassment from irate clients (45.6 percent); excessive and tedious workload (41 percent); performance demands (37.4 percent); monotony (33.7 percent); regular night shift work (33.4 percent).
The “high-strain” work was among the main cause why BPO companies have high rate of staff turnover, which in some companies can reach as high as 100 percent or more annually.
The ILO book urge the BPO industry to redesign work processes, especially in call centers, to allow workers to have more autonomy and make use of their qualifications.
The proposed revision to the Labor Code also specifies industries that are not allowed to put women on the night shift. Among these are mining, manufacturing, and construction.
Other “industrial undertakings” that Estrada’s bill proposes to include in the ban are garment manufacturing, ship building, and power generation and transmission.
The consolidated bill was signed by Senators Estrada, Franklin Drilon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, Teofisto Guingona III, Manuel Villar Jr., and Gregorio Honasan II.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also signed the committee report as ex-officio members of the Senate committee on labor. (Jonathan Santos/Sunnex)

Source: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/bpo-s-exemption-night-shift-ban-pushed
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