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BPO umbrella body stands in solidarity with Government

Published:Thursday | April 23, 2020 | 12:11 AM
President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica, formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, Gloria Henry.
President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica, formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, Gloria Henry.

The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), the umbrella body representing outsourcing firms operating in Jamaica, is supporting the Andrew Holness-led administration’s decision to close BPO sites for a period of 14 days.

Holness ordered the closure, which took effect yesterday, but said it was not an easy decision to close down the sector, and GSAJ president Gloria Henry said the group is in solidarity with the Government.

“This will give the various agencies of Government the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the protocols implemented by the members and to bring all operators under the ambit of the approved protocols,” she said in a press release yesterday.

“All BPOs (except those providing essential services) have been instructed by the prime minister to cease operations for two weeks as of Wednesday, April 22 in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“We have instructed our members and use this opportunity to encourage non-members to abide by the directives given,” the statement continued. “We know this is in the best interest of the country, considering the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are in support of protecting and preserving the safety of all our workers.”

According to the release, GSAJ members currently have about 12,000 or 31.5 per cent of its full-time workforce in work-at-home solutions, while another 22 per cent are providing essential services.

However, the CEO of one of the leading outsourcing operations says the announcement was ill-timed and misinformed.

“I believe the Government understands the industry, but I think a vast number of Jamaicans do not understand our industry,” the BPO executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “When you talk about environmental health and safety, there are international certifications that cost over US$50,000 per year that we must have, that covers occupational health and safety, data security, and the livelihood of the contract that you have.”

“We have to take out millions of dollars of insurance in order to have a contract,” he continues. “It is not about throwing two desks and chair in a room and hire a man to take some phone calls … that is not what this industry is, it is a highly respected industry globally.”

“Seven years ago we had 10,000 people, that number is working from home today,” he argued. “What is interesting is that the industry is closed down because of COVID, but it does not appear as if there is any plan in to test the remaining 39,000-plus labour pool.”