An employee at Conduent shared with the Jamaica Observer an e-mail circulated from management-level staff which showed that the company wants to reduce the number of those who currently are working from home.
The business process outsourcing sector (BPO) to which the company belongs, in 2020 moved into a hybrid working model after the novel coronavirus pandemic forced social distancing in group settings and saw major parts of its workforce operating from home. Now, however, the company appears ready to turn back the clock for some workers.
A member of the workforce who spoke with the Business Observer claimed the company needed staff on site in order to secure SEZ exemptions which cover both computer equipment and other tax incentives for companies under the regime.
The letter she shared read: “Hello everyone, I had an interesting idea and I checked it out and it seems it can work. I said to myself, 'What would happen if every single person who works in ...in Portmore was vaccinated? Could we all work in the production area without wearing masks? Could we all work in the production area without fear of giving the virus to each other? Could we sit in any seat we want because social distancing would not apply? Could we expand the department (because of the added seating, giving existing staff opportunities for promotion)? Could we still practice the Covid-19 protocols in the rest of the workplace because others (lobby, meeting rooms, lockers, break areas) would not be vaccinated? It turns out we could. If every person who works within the production room is vaccinated (and has a copy of their vaccination record laminated and at their desk) we could do these things, making life a lot better. Let's go for it. Let's make a plan to get your full vaccination completed. It may take a while to get there. But, if we never start, we will never finish. Let's be the first department to make it happen and ease the stress… at work.”
Conduent, one of over 40 BPO companies operating in Jamaica, employs hundreds of workers at its Portmore, St Catherine, offices. The company describes itself online as delivering “mission-critical services and solutions on behalf of Fortune 100 companies and over 500 governments – creating exceptional outcomes for our clients and the millions of people who count on them.”
The affected worker said she did not believe the company's planned approach to health protocols as outlined in the letter would be effective. She stated, “I just received this memo and it does not sit well with me for more than one reason. I have more than one life-threatening illnesses and I am a single mother. What guarantees do I have as a struggling mom to say if I take this and something happens to me, my daughter will be looked after? None! It is alarming how they will try to force things on people all for the sake of business.”
She further asserted, “ They have been getting work-from-home accounts but refuse to utilise these opportunities because they are losing out on that customs duty waiver they get to import the needed material to run their centres.”
She added, “They are looking at buildings they have invested in and money for light, etc and people not being in these buildings. But, the thing is you would still have staff that can give unlimited over time if needs be and get that revenue.”
The worker concluded, “I am not anti-vax, but I do have concerns. I would rather wait until the clinical phase (vaccine development) is over before making such a decision because everyone does not have the same adverse reaction to the vaccine.”
The worker outlined that both she and relatives had contracted COVID and recovered, and that she has been advised to stay away from vaccines because of blood clotting tendencies which also mitigated against her taking birth control.
However, Conduent in a statement to the Business Obse ver sought to assure workers. “There has been no change to our policy, nor are we contemplating a change at this time. We continually evaluate our health and safety protocols with the input from health professionals such as the Ministry of Health (MOH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) as well as from our associates. The health and safety of our associates is and remains our highest priority.”
Conduent Inc was created in January 2017 when Connecticut-based Xerox Corporation spun off its business process outsourcing operations into a new subsidiary. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the company currently employs 5,000 people across the three centres it operates in Jamaica at Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay, St James, Portmore in St Catherine and in St Andrew.
Conduent offers transaction processing, technical support, insurance claims processing, order processing, and customer service on behalf of clients in the banking, insurance, health care, telecommunications, airline, and automotive industries.