Sunday, July 10, 2005

Labor Code changes to boost call-center sector

CEBU CITY - To boost the country’s thriving business process outsourcing industry, a senior member of Congress has sought the immediate repeal of an old-fashioned Labor Code provision that bans the employment of women at night.

"The absolute legal prohibition against night work for women has become totally obsolete, irrelevant and inapplicable," Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu said.

Gullas was referring to Article 130 of the Labor Code, which provides that: "No woman, regardless of age, shall be employed or permitted to work with or without compensation in any industrial undertaking between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following day, or in any commercial or nonindustrial undertaking, other than agricultural, between midnight and 6 a.m. the following day."

The exceptions to the prohibition include emergencies due to disasters and imminent dangers to public safety, essential health and welfare services and urgent work to be performed on machinery or equipment to avoid serious business loss.

The exceptions also include cases where female employees are immediate members of the family operating the establishment or, under certain cases, exempted by the secretary of labor in appropriate regulations.

"Simply put, the outright ban on night work for women has been rendered outmoded by the changing times," Gullas said.

At present, Gullas said local BPO service providers, including call centers that employ mostly women, cope with the prohibition through the tedious process of seeking an express exemption from the Department of Labor and Employment.

The local BPO industry generated $1.7 billion in sales in 2004, according to the Confederation of Philippine Exporters.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology pro­ject local BPO contractors to fully employ over 800,000 Filipinos by 2010.

At present, the industry employs 134,000 Filipinos, mainly in call centers.

In BPO, foreign-based firms, in order to reduce operating costs, turn over many of their back-office work to contractors in offshore destinations such as the Philippines and India.

Most of the foreign firms that resort to outsourcing have to routinely deal with millions of subscribers or customers in their home countries, such as telecommunications and satellite-cable TV service providers, banks, credit-card lenders and insurers.

Since they have to deal with clients in various time zones, local call centers have to operate in up to three shifts 24 hours a day

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