Imee Marcos calls on DOLE to probe alleged worker abuses in call centers amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2020   •   425

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Imee Marcos has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to probe cases of worker abuse arising from flexible work arrangements, especially in call centers, amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement issued on Monday, Marcos said her office received complaints, mostly from call center employees, claiming non-payment of salaries in the past 60 to 90 days.

Other complaints include denial of separation benefits of those laid off, unreimbursed costs of electricity and Wi-Fi access for night-shift employees working from home, extended home-based work shifts with no extra pay if system toll breakdown and forced leave on maternity credits without assurance of being rehired.

“The complaints are not just coming out of smaller call centers but also from top-listed companies that were earning billions in annual income. One even reportedly cut its workforce to less than half,” Marcos said.

“As stated in Labor advisories 9 and 17 this year, flexible work arrangements should go through employee consultation and be reported by companies to the nearest DOLE office with jurisdiction over the workplace,” she added.

“Companies must also provide adequate support for those working from home, according to number 17, which also echoes the Labor Code on separation pay and benefits,” she further stated.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, called on DOLE to closely monitor corporate compliance “since labor abuse during the pandemic may be more widespread than just within the BPO industry.”

“BPO’s must take care of their employees in anticipation of a bounce-back in business post-COVID, as companies in other sectors will turn to outsourcing services to cut costs,” Marcos said.

Marcos noted that the BPO industry’s contribution to the country’s economy has grown from a mere 0.7% of the gross domestic product in 2000 to an estimated 12% in 2019.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said that the BPO industry is showing signs of resurgence amid the pandemic.

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

DOLE denounces ABS-CBN’s claim of compliance with labor practices

Marje Pelayo   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday (July 1) denounced the claims made by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN Corporation that it found the network compliant with labor laws and standards.

In a statement, the labor department said it “denounces attempts by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN to misrepresent its position to deceive members of the House of Representatives in its bid to gain congressional approval for a new franchise.”

Additionally, DOLE denied ABS-CBN’s claim that the department approves of the firm’s seasonal work status for its program employees.

DOLE said its inspectors found violations of labor practices on the part of ABS-CBN but added that “the company took steps to correct those infractions.”

“It is therefore patently misleading to attribute to us the claim that ABS-CBN is a compliant company,” the agency said adding that there are actually 67 pending cases against ABS-CBN in the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC) and in various courts.

“We also warn the broadcast firm’s counsels against wrongfully presenting policy issuances of the department to the advantage of their client,” DOLE said.

“The cited rule governing the employee-employer relationship in the broadcast industry 40 years ago, which is not aligned with the provisions of the Labor Code, does not anymore apply to date,” it added.

The labor department said it will not let the matter pass.

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Bello says no to use of OFW funds to aid displaced migrant workers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has rejected calls to use the trust fund being managed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide for the emergency needs of Filipino migrant workers displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“They are sending us more than $30 billion a year. Nakakatulong sa ekonomiya natin. Kaya naman, for once, pay back naman tayo. ‘Wag nating galawin yung pera nila,” Bello said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The OWWA earlier asked for a P5 billion supplemental budget from Congress to prolong its fund’s sustainability as it warned of a “largely looming” bankruptcy should it continue to spend for the food, accommodation, and transportation of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) beyond 2021.

At a Senate hearing last week, OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the agency’s P18.79-billion fund is expected to be reduced to P10 billion by the end of this year, and plunge below P1 billion by the end of 2021 should OFWs continue to be displaced and repatriated.

Cacdac said OWWA has so far spent more than P800 million for the repatriation, accommodation and cash assistance for returning OFWs.

Bello said OWWA funds should be spent more on its members’ needs, such as for livelihood or their children’s education.

“Dapat gobyerno ang magbigay ng pera para matiyak natin na lahat ng kailangan ng ating mga OFW ay matugunan natin… Bakit naman, for the first time na hihingi naman sila ng tulong, nangangailangan sila ng tulong, bakit naman kailangan nating galawin yung pondo nila?… ‘Wag natin gamitin ang pera na ‘yan sa panahong ito,” the labor chief said.

“Government has to take extra steps in order to assure additional budget to help our OFWs,” he added.

“Huwag nating hayaan na maramdaman ng OFW na tinitipid sila sa kabila ng napakalaki nilang naitulong sa ekonomiya natin in the good and in the best of times,” he further stated.

Bello said around 63,000 Filipino workers have already been brought home while about 90,000 others remain stranded in other countries and are awaiting repatriation.

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