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Group warns vs. higher health risks in outsourcing industry

04/22/2009 | 10:31 PM
MANILA, Philippines — A Church-based group warned about a possible rise of occupational health risks in the outsourcing industry as firms cut down their work force and give more work to those who stay.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (Eiler) said the cut in growth rates among BPO firms mean lower workforce but with the same amount of work.

“It has come to our attention that some outsourcing companies are already employing reduced workforce while encouraging multitasking and additional unpaid work hours which will further distress the health of the employees," Anna Leah Colina, deputy executive director of Eiler, said in an article on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines website (

She cited a recent announcement by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P) that companies may cut growth rates in 2010 due to the global economic meltdown.

Last year, Eiler conducted a research on call centers, focusing on BPO firms servicing the airline, railway, bus, cruise ship/ferry, and logistics, goods and transport industries.

It found that the occupational health risks from graveyard shifts, long working hours, period of break time, very cool temperatures in work areas, and high work stress due to high quota are very serious and potentially life-threatening.

“Most of the respondents experienced sleeping problems, eye strain, overall fatigue, headaches, chest and back pains, voice problems and mental stress. Other health hazards are work stress, work time, and irrational behavior of customers. However, despite such high occupational health risks in call centers, clinical services are found to be wanting especially during graveyard shifts," Colina said.

Two years ago, media had reported a death of a call center agent, believed to be due to stress.

With the BPA/P $13-billion revenue target in 2010, it will put much pressure, especially to the rights of the BPO employees to organize and bargain.

“To be able to reach this revenue target, the right of BPO employees to organize will be effectively suppressed as only organized employees can comprehensively advance their concerns on health and safety, career paths and development, skills development, their social life, savings for their future and long-term occupation security," Colina said.

She added the industry is virtually union-free because organizing in the sector is said to be covertly and overtly discouraged by the management. - GMANews.TV

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