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Philippines: BIEN Sounds Alarm Over COVID19 Outbreaks In Many BPOs

“The rate is extremely alarming. We are enraged and saddened whenever we hear a co-worker in the BPO sector tested positive for COVID, let alone to hear an outbreak in a site. It is heart-breaking when we receive a report that a colleague in the industry died of it.”

This is the reaction of Sarah Prestoza, Vice President of BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) as the group expressed alarm over the successive reports of COVID outbreaks in many call center companies.

The group said that they have monitored at least 15 call center sites where there are COVID cases and a few of these companies have had outbreaks with not less than 20 cases in a single site. In one call center in Mall of Asia at least 102 workers already tested positive. On May 11, it was reported that at least 99 call center agents in Iloilo tested positive, two BPO sites are on lockdown and one died. Reports from the ground said that the toll has increased to 115 as of writing. In Bacolod, news also reported at least one call center agent died of COVID 19.

“Many BPO workers are already afraid to work on site because it is not safe. The guidelines put out by the government are simply not enough to stop the spread of the virus. Until and unless the government implements a thorough health response via testing, contact tracing and treatment to combat this pandemic, then we can expect more outbreaks in more call centers and other workplaces,” Prestoza said.

Just like health workers, BPO workers have become economic front-liners with mediocre support from the government, the group said. “Our economy is in a crash and BPO companies and workers are among the few who are expected to keep it from sliding deeper into an abyss. So despite the huge risk, BPOs are allowed to operate up to 50 percent on site. We are like overworked ventilators for the country's ailing economy that is now gasping for air. We are extremely worried that many of us might end up in ventilators ourselves,” Prestoza said.

“We grieve and express sympathy to the families of our colleagues who passed away and who continue to battle COVID 19. Now more than ever, BPO workers should unite to assert our right to safe workplaces, amplify our call for mass testing and hold the government accountable for its poor response to the pandemic and economic crisis we are all mired in now,” Prestoza averred.

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