Ridiculous comments on BPOs by Grant and Gayle

Letters to the Editor

Ridiculous comments on BPOs by Grant and Gayle

Thursday, April 23, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Last Friday I read an article in the Jamaica Observer titled 'Trade union presence in BPOs could have helped before this COVID-19 crisis' by O'Neil Grant of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions. Then on Sunday, April 19, I read another article in the Observer, headlined 'BITU proposes new deal for BPO workers', which reports Senator Kavan Gayle, who heads Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), as arguing that during the current coronavirus crisis contact or call centre workers are facing unprecedented pressures specific to their jobs and work environment.

Both articles had an opportunistic tone, one suggesting that the industry is a bit of the Wild West and unregulated or has a lack of care for its employees.

Grant's comment that “it is not a wild shot in the dark to make a correlation to lack of representation and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the sector” is very reckless. I am left to ask if his concern is the protection of workers or for unions to be able to maintain their operations. If a union provides so much protection for workers then why was that not organised in the past? Business process outsourcing entities (BPOs) are not new in Jamaica. In fact, they have actually been around since 1998.

In Senator Gayle's case, I don't think he understands the industry and how it works. Truthfully, it is no different to any business in Jamaica or around the world. You charge a fee to a client for a service and out of that service you pay employees, meet other expenses, and what is left over is your profit.

Is the hard work at times? Yes! Are customers often unreasonable? Yes! But it is the nature of the job. We have to be productive and meet targets in order to keep our jobs. This is no different than any other company or industry. Do you think if a waiter at a hotel gave poor service to a guest he/she would be able to keep that job? The same would be true for an unreliable worker.

Let's be real here and say we don't need a union to make things better; we just need to communicate more and provide a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. I have seen many people grow in the BPO sector, and those are the ones who always worked a little bit harder.

Gayle is also incorrect in saying that “most of the workers” are under a fixed-term contract. Tell me someone in Jamaica that doesn't sign an employment contract. Tell me someone who doesn't sign to agree to their pay and benefits package. Tell me someone who doesn't agree to the terms of their employment. This is just another ridiculous, opportunistic comment from these people who don't really care about us workers.

Our employers hire us to do a job and we get paid. Why do we need a third party to negotiate for us? Why would I, a single mother — and more than two-thirds of the industry are like that — need a man from a union to negotiate for me when I don't have a man at home to help me?

Finally, let me talk about safety at work, because I don't think that Gayle or Grant has any idea what that means. Prior to COVID-19 our employer did all they should, based on international standards, to protect us physically and otherwise.

Today, since COVID-19, we are protected even more. When we ride on the bus to work it isn't filled to capacity. When we get to the office we have to line up in order to have our temperatures checked by either a nurse or security, then we go to a hand-washing station before entering the building. All of the doors are open in order to limit touching door handles that could potentially spread the virus. We are spaced every other cubicle in order to create the social distancing in the production space. We are given masks to wear at work and in public. Our desks are sanitised each shift by the cleaning staff and additional cleaning supplies are available if we want to do it again ourselves. No more than 10 people are allowed in lunchrooms and chill areas at any one time. We are to space ourselves 3-6 feet when walking or standing around in order to have social distancing. There are wash stations all over the building so that we can frequently wash our hands. And, for us who work during the curfew hours, we get dropped off at our homes.

Now you tell me, Grant and Senator Gayle, what more can you do to protect us? How are you going to make things better for us? Are you going to miraculously have the virus disappear? An outbreak could happen in any company or anywhere at any time.

Leave me and my BPO job.


Montego Bay

St James

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