Sat | Jun 6, 2020

BPOs want work-at-home extension

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2020 | 12:24 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) has submitted a request to the Government for an extension to its current work-at-home arrangement to the end of the year.

The current order made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, under the Disaster Risk Management Act, will end on May 31, but the operators are hoping that the more than 13,000 workers that are now participating in the home-based regime will be allowed to continue.

“A request has been made to the Government to continue with this facility until the end of 2020 so that sites can continue to practise social distancing, but more importantly, keep workers safe and employed,” said Gloria Henry, president of the GSAJ, formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica.

“It is expected that about 20 per cent to 25 per cent of BPO workers may continue to work at home even after the pandemic ends.”

Henry said that the majority of GSAJ members that are seeking to reopen their sites for non-essential services have passed their inspections. This includes all of the top 14 global services-sector sites. Those that have passed have begun returning non-essential services to office, Henry added.

The temporary closure of all non-essential BPO operations across the island for 14 days will expire on June 4, but with companies realising significant savings in operational costs, some are considering broadening the work-at-home service.

The initial closure of the BPO operations across the island commenced on April 22 after the Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, became the epicentre of a surge in coronavirus cases nationally.

Daryl Vaz, who heads the BPO caucus of the Government’s Economic Recovery Task Force, has approved several new protocols to ensure that all operators implement preventative measures against the transmission of COVID-19.

“As much as 89 of the country’s 91 BPOs have been inspected, and the number of satisfactory ones, so far, is 57,” Vaz told a recent COVID-19 press conference at Jamaica House, adding that those numbers should increase gradually as inspections were ongoing.

The BPO caucus was established to prevent another outbreak of COVID-19 in the sector.

Holness said that the BPO sector was one of the green shoots of the Jamaican economy, having amassed a workforce of nearly 40,000. He believes that BPOs offer opportunities to workers who have lost jobs in other industries.

“Jamaica is a natural fit for business process and knowledge process and global-services operations, and we will intensify our efforts in this regard, which will include improvements to our legal and regulatory framework and expanding our investment portfolio in the infrastructure to support the BPO industry,” Holness said.