Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Outsourcing sector moving to cushion COVID-19 blow

Published:Friday | March 13, 2020 | 12:28 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) is awaiting the green light from the Government for a waiver on duties on computers for its members to support a planned work-at-home (WAH) regime, which is being considered as part of the nation’s bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Gloria Henry, president of GSAJ, formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, says her organisation was proactive in establishing certain protocols to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the operations of the over 70 outsourcing firms in Jamaica.

“We have started to put work-at-home solutions in place, and one of the critical things to accommodate that is to get a waiver on the duties for computers, because for security purposes, the companies will need to have their own equipment being utilised (in the homes of their employees) under any work-from-home arrangement, so we are now awaiting a response from the Government.”

The sector has grown from just over 12,000 employees to an estimated 40,000 over the last six years, and experts are projecting continued growth of 11,000 new jobs annually and combined return revenue returns of one billion dollars by 2024. Along with the tourism sector, it is considered a key driver of the economy.

According to Henry, the WAH regime has the full backing of the telecoms firms, and outsourcing operators are now vetting their employees to ensure that they meet basic security and responsibility criteria.

While all outsourcing firms have established privacy policies, data, and equipment security, the association boss told The Gleaner that it was also awaiting word from the government on issues of labour relations.

“We have not received the perspective of the government, but companies have been following the guidelines that the Ministry of Labour has provided, and we have been sharing all the bulletins from the Ministry of Health,” Henry said.

In the meantime, the companies have strengthened their monitoring systems and established isolation rooms, response, and contact tracing strategies.

“The business continuity measure is being utilised as we speak for persons working at home because we don’t want something happens, and a site has to shut down its operations, so that is done concurrently in the event anything happens,” said Henry.

But despite the anticipated impact on trade on the global market, Henry said that enquiries from the investing community continued unabated.

“We have investors that are being processed now, and even with the restrictions on travel, we are fortunate because we have been conducting meetings with prospective investors over the years, and except for banning travel, we have not seen any adverse response coming from the investors that were in the pipeline.”