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Call center group: Hybrid work is ‘only compromise’

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THE implementation of a hybrid work arrangement is the only viable compromise for employees in the information technology business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector, according to the Alliance of Call Center Workers (ACW).

“We are welcoming the opportunity to discuss possible ways with which to support the industry going forward, but right now, hybrid is the only healthy compromise we see,” ACW Communications Committee Representative Brien Matthew M. Benitez said in a Facebook Messenger message sent to BusinessWorld.

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The group’s stand comes after the work-from-home (WFH) arrangement for IT-BPO workers in companies within economic zones is set to expire by March 31 as provided under Resolution 19-21 of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB). The resolution, implemented in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, allowed IT-BPO firms to adopt a WFH arrangement for up to 90% of their workforce while still enjoying tax perks.

Starting April 1, employees of IT-BPO firms registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) are mandated to conduct on-site work or the companies will risk losing tax incentives. The government has been encouraging the return of employees, including BPO workers, to help the country’s economic recovery.

According to Mr. Benitez, the government should give a choice for BPO workers to either have a WFH arrangement or an on-site arrangement due to rising fuel prices and traffic.

“The government should be pro-choice — allow workers the capability to decide whether they want to work from home, or on-site,” Mr. Benitez said.

Further, Mr. Benitez said compromises such as providing subsidies and financial assistance will depend on the BPO firms and may not be uniformly implemented.

“Compromises can be good, granted that they are mandated or supported by the government. Assistance in the form of subsidies or what not will most likely be shouldered by the companies we work for. We highly doubt the government will consider assisting the BPO industry at this point. This will also depend on the company itself, and won’t likely be approached in a uniform manner, if it does happen,” Mr. Benitez said.

“The only compromise here is to let people who want to work from home, stay at home. The hybrid option provides the best for all parties involved,” he added.

In a recent press briefing, ACW disclosed that there is a significant number of workers willing to resign due to the hard transition from a WFH arrangement to on-site work.

The group also mentioned that many of their members have returned to their provinces since the lockdown was implemented in 2020, adding that the on-site directive puts an additional burden to employees.

Previously, Akbayan party-list suggested that the government should give commuter subsidies and free COVID-19 testing to workers who will be mandated to have on-site work.

PEZA also recently announced that registered IT-BPO firms will return to allowing 70% of its work force to conduct on-site work while the 30% will have remote work beginning April 1. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave



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