Whether or not there was a COVID-19 pandemic, Paolo Parayno, a work-from-home BPO worker from La Union, did not stop working.
Many of his industry colleagues, according to Parayno, were disappointed by the government’s recent mandate to return on-site with BPO workers registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority beginning April 1.
The BPO tax incentive may be jeopardized if less than 90% of employees return.
“Hindi pa naru-rule out ang pandemic so ‘yon ang concern ng mga kapwa ko employees ng BPO… Same rin naman productivity namin na napo-provide namin sa company,” Parayno said.
(The pandemic has not been ruled out yet, so that is the concern of my fellow BPO employees … We also still have the same productivity that we provide to the company.)
According to Parayno, it will be difficult for many BPO workers to return to the provinces to immediately return on-site to Manila.
“Masyado biglaan for other employees. Marami kasi na office sa Manila, nag-uwian sa provinces. So binitawan nila na apartment nila, pahirapan na naman,” said Parayno, who also called for an extension at the beginning of the return-on-site work.
(It’s too sudden for other employees. Since there are many offices in Manila, they have gone home to their provinces. So they left their apartment, it would be harder again.)
The BPO Industry Employees’ Network condemned the order because it allegedly did not consult with industry workers.
“Ang nakakatakot kasi baka gawin siyang means ng mga kompanya to lay off [workers],” said group president Mylene Cabalona.
(What’s scary is that companies might use this as a means to lay off [workers].)
According to Rachel Balares, who heads a coalition of BPO workers, it is difficult for employees who enter on-site to be exposed to the virus.
The industry has also proven that they can be productive even if the setup is work-from-home.
An online petition is also allegedly being disseminated against forcing them to enter on-site.
“Even with more people vaccinated, the environment remains volatile and COVID surges may happen and new variants may eventually emerge, and these vaccines and boosters will eventually wear off,” Balares said.
“So there’s no clear cut measure and plans by the government on how they are going to help us, you know, for the safety of the employees,” he added.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority, part of the new normal is to return to office, and the tax incentive given to BPOs is because they are in ecozones.
“I also understand the legal basis of providing incentives to BPOs is they should be situated in economic zones and I am not sure if homes are situated in ecozones,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez previously stated that the work-from-home arrangement is only a temporary solution and that due to the high COVID-19 vaccination rate, it is safer for employees to return to the office.
According to him, the back-office of BPO workers will also assist small businesses, such as restaurants and other establishments affected by the pandemic.
Source: ABS-CBN News