Mass testing of BPO employees proposed

AMID reports of COVID positive cases in a number of BPO companies, the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) called for mass testing via RT-PCR, quarantine facility for workers, and establishment of occupational safety and health (OSH) committees as crucial in protecting workers and communities from COVID-19.

“We alarmed that BPO employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 patient in their workplace were simply sent home to quarantine for fourteen days in the absence of quarantine facility provided by the company or the government. Such practice put us at high risk that can lead to further spread of the virus in our communities,” BIEN President, Mylene Cabalona said.

The group said they have monitored three cases wherein workers were simply sent home by their companies even if they have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive patient. A recent COVID-19 case happened in a call center company in Manila where about 26 employees were brought discreetly to a residential condominium where they shared dormitory type rooms with other residents.

The shift from ECQ to Modified ECQ and GCQ in many parts of the country is likely to increase on-site operations of BPO companies putting BPO workers in enormous risk, the group said. "The government has always considered the BPO industry as important to the economy. But isn’t it also the employees who drive the industry? Thus, ensuring workers safety thru mass testing is immensely important at this time,” Cabalona said.

Cabalona added that the current guidelines and protocols set by the government are weak and does not fully protect workers, “For instance, simple disinfection within 24 hours as required in the DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines is not enough. Companies should only be allowed to resume to operations once contact tracing is done and workers are tested.”