Alorica denies being virus rogue
International outsourcing firm Alorica says it is in full compliance with the protocols established by the Jamaican authorities and has rubbished suggestions that negligence on the firm’s part resulted in 52 of its workers being infected with the new coronavirus.
“The most recent GOJ (Government of Jamaica) health inspection from April 1, 2020, gave us a passing report,” said Jose Ramirez, the senior vice-president and chief of staff for Alorica’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, in an interview with The Gleaner on Wednesday.
But even as the company sought to dismiss the Government’s claim of breaching protocols, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton remained firm that the company did not follow established guidelines.
Responding to questions about the call centre yesterday in Parliament, Tufton said that the company was advised to observe physical-distancing protocols, the wearing of masks, sanitising stations, and not congregating beyond a certain number in the lunchroom.
However, he said that “this virus only takes one deviant to wreak havoc on our society, and I am prepared to say, based on what I have seen, this particular facility did not observe the protocols that were established”.
Tufton said that Alorica’s breaches have forced the Government to be more vigilant on call-centre operations and the measures put in place to deal with the virus.
He said that a more rigid approach would now be taken in relation to inspection and enforcement of protocols at BPO facilities, including surprise visits.
But Ramirez told The Gleaner that “it’s unfortunate that there have been cases of COVID-19 from our Portmore site despite our best sanitary efforts, which were aligned with recommended guidelines”.
Contrary to the sentiments expressed by some employees in media reports, Ramirez said that Alorica gives employee’s welfare priority attention.
“The health and safety of our employees are paramount. Our management team implemented enhanced measures and will continue our engagement and support of our employees during this time,” said the company executive.
In reiterating his claims of following established protocols, Ramirez said the company has implemented additional measures, including strong, proactive communication, and reinforcement of health and safety guidelines, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing.
However, staffers with whom The Gleaner has made contact have claimed that company managers and supervisors had a cavalier attitude to anti-COVID-19 protocols and facilitated close gatherings, which provided incubators for the virus.
In speaking to the adjustments made as a result of COVID-19, Ramirez said the company, which has its headquarters in Irvine, California, in the United States, and has a workforce of more than 100,000 at its 130 sites across 14 countries – including 800 agents at its two locations in Jamaica – has allowed hundreds of staff to work from home.
“Jamaica remained open based on the fact that we had approved systems and protocols in place, taking all efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Ramirez when he was quizzed about the March 18 temporary closure of its location in Guatemala by the government for its failure to comply with presidential provisions issued in the State of Public Calamity in the face of the emergence of COVID-19.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic, the primary concern of Alorica is the health and welfare of our Alorica team members worldwide, and in the interest of the health and safety of our employees, we temporarily closed both locations (Portmore and Kingston),” said Ramirez.
Ramirez is of the view that the temporary shutdown of its sites in Portmore and Kingston will not affect the accounts his company represents as the clients have been supportive of the company’s welfare efforts.
“We have similar protocols in place at our other locations, which are enhanced by local operational teams,” said Ramirez. “These protocols include enhanced cleaning, temperature checks, sanitation stations, work-at-home transitions, social distancing, proactive communication, and health education, to name a few.”