Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Rogue operators hurting sector - stakeholders

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Workers at a local call centre.

Some business process outsourcing (BPO) call centre operators are expressing fear that the legitimacy of the industry in Jamaica is being threatened by players who are refusing to become a part of the formal system.

Karl Graham, director of FullGram Solutions, raised the issue with The Sunday Gleaner recently as he called on the 'rogue' operators to join the Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ).

"You market yourself as a call centre, you're unregistered, you're not participating in an association that would actually lobby for you but you're a call centre. If you don't have the regulated policies and procedures, then you're not operating the way you should," said Graham.

He said some of the negative stories reported about call centres originate from those operations that refuse to be registered and join the association that lobbies for the industry operators, and conducts activities to ensure compliance with established standards.

"Sometimes we hear the stories of a lot of misunderstandings that happen within those doors. I wish they would come clean and get themselves registered and up to the level so they, too, can be registered," added Graham, who claimed that as many as 12 call centres could be operating locally under the radar.

The number of call centres that are not members of the BPIAJ is unclear, although Yoni Epstein, its president, says 35 centres are members of the association.

The Government does not have any established mechanism to track the development of these entities, and there appears to be no sure way to ensure that basic labour and decent work standards are being met. Operators are only required to be registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica.


No policy requiring registration


Epstein believes there are companies operating under the radar, although he insists that there is no policy requiring them to become members of the industry association.

"I'm sure there are (companies under the radar). It's not a policy - they don't have to be members to be able to operate. There are some companies that I know that are medium-sized call centres that, because they're what we consider to be captives, they're not an outsourcing firm, they're doing work for themselves. They don't feel it necessary to be members," he said.

Epstein agreed with Graham that the legitimacy of the industry could be threatened by the rogue operators, asserting that the situation is an opportunity for the Government to step up its monitoring.

"I would agree with that but I would say on the heels of that, name me one industry in Jamaica that has an industry association that has companies out there that are not members, that could be considered to be threats as well," Epstein argues.

In 2007, the Indian government took action against unregistered call centres that industry players argued then forced 50,000 people out of jobs.

According to the Hindu Business Line, the government said the unregistered centres were "using the Internet service providers' infrastructure to make illegal telephone calls".

Back home, Epstein argued that the problem of unregistered companies may never be eradicated, but "when you find them, you need to deal with them".

- André Poyser and Jovan Johnson