Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Three-month extension for BPO workers

Published:Wednesday | June 10, 2020 | 1:07 PM

WESTERN BUREAU:

THE GOVERNMENT has answered the call of stakeholders in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector for an extension to the ongoing work-from-home arrangement by agreeing to a three-month extension.

However, major players are still pushing for a year-end reprieve.

Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, who heads the BPO caucus of the Government’s Economic Recovery Task Force, said that the Ministry of Finance gave the green light for the 90-day extension, which will end on August 31.

“We are pleased that the protocols are working. It is a joint effort, and our strategies have been successful,” Vaz told The Gleaner yesterday.

“The BPO sector is recovering and is in good stead … .”

Vaz disclosed that the industry managed to retain more than 33,000 workers and would seek to reclaim the approximately 7,000 jobs shed because of clampdowns and other measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

An astronomical spike in coronavirus transmission was linked to the Alorica call centre in Portmore, which accounted for 236 infections, or more than a third of cases nationally.

The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) applied for an extension to December 31, prior to the end of the national order, which was made under the Disaster Risk Management Act and ended on May 31. The Gloria Henry-led group said that an extension would ensure that sites could continue to practise social distancing to keep workers safe and employed. The agents now working from home represent 40 per cent of BPO staff islandwide.

“We are not yet in receipt of a formal reply, but ideally a year-end extension would have made it better to plan for the busiest seasons of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said a somewhat disappointed Henry.

“With all that said, we look forward to receiving the formal response and GSAJ thanks the Government and the agencies involved in the process.”

The BPO sector is considered one of the green shoots of the Jamaican economy, but lost US$42 million in revenue because of COVID-19 restrictions, Vaz said.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com