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Career Advice

This Senate Bill is for you: The Magna Carta for Call Center Workers

By Krisha Maclang on July 7, 2015

The call center industry is arguably one of the foremost pillars of our economy. With an estimated revenue of $55 billion by 2020, the industry is pegged to be one of the reasons why credit ratings agencies have consistently given the Philippines good ratings.

With all of the good things happening for the call center industry, it may be easy to forget about the people who make all this success happen: the call center employees themselves.

The Magna Carta for Call Center Workers seeks to protect the interests and welfare of the workers of this very important sector of our economy. Originally introduced in the 15th Congress by Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the bill has been filed more than once. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author of the bill, has been pushing for this bill at the Senate for a few years now: first in 2011 and again in 2013.

The bill is currently stuck in the committee level of the Senate. While it's lingering there, take a look at what it says.

Section 4 – Rights of Call Center Employees

The right to organize and join labor organizations

Call center employees will be granted the right to organize into groups which will champion their causes (such as bargaining units) and join labor unions.

The right to a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to their work

Known for stressful work environments, call center companies must provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees. They have to ensure that they can safeguard the physical and mental health of their workers.

Call center employees shall have at least a one (1) hour continuous meal break in the middle of every eight (8) hour shift

All call center employees should have at least a solid 1 hour break for their meals for each 8 hour shift.

The right to privacy of call center employees shall be respected. The monitoring of personal phone calls shall not be allowed, and in the event that their official phone conversations are monitored, they must be informed of this at all times prior to the start of the monitoring process.

While work-related phone calls may be monitored, provided that employees are informed before they are monitored or recorded, personal phone conversations are off-limits. Call center employees’ personal privacy must not be invaded.

For employees working in the night shift, they shall have the right to stay in a comfortable resting area within the employer’s premises until daybreak to ensure their safety

Call center employers must provide comfortable resting areas within their premises for employees working the night shift. They have the right to stay there until dawn so that they can stay safe.

The right to be informed of the terms and conditions of their contract

All call center employees must be made aware of the terms and conditions of their contract.

Section 5 – Duties of Employers in the Industry

Establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to the work of call center employees

Related to the 2nd right of call center employees above, it is the duty of call center employers to operate their company with the optimal physical and mental health of their employees in mind.

Monitoring software should not be used to unduly pressure employees and should not impose an oppressive working environment

The monitoring of employee phone calls are allowed as long as employees are informed beforehand. However, this should not provision should not be used to give undue pressure on employees nor create an oppressive working environment.

Employers should incorporate regular rest breaks and changes in activity for all display screen equipment users

Employees who use display screen equipment, such as desktop computers or laptops, should be given changes in activity from time to time. There must also be regular breaks for every employee should be included into their work hours.

They are required to carry out risk assessments and to remove monotonous work and work at a pre-determined rate when designing tasks whenever possible

If possible, call center employers must design employee tasks such that they remove monotonous work and work at a pre-determined rate. They must also impose regular risk assessments to check on their work’s effect on the wellness of their employees.

All BPO companies shall inform their prospective recruits that they can have their contract explained to them free of charge at the BPO Help Desk of the Department of Labor and Employment

All call center employees must be informed that the BPO Help Desk at the Department of Labor and Employment (also a proposed addition to the Magna Carta, explained below) can explain the details of their contracts for free.

Other provisions:

Section 6 – BPO Help Desk

There shall be a BPO Help Desk at the national and regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment. It shall be equipped to advise employees or prospective employees of BPO companies of the terms and conditions of their employment when presented with a copy of the contract. It shall also inform employees of the proper procedure in filing complaints for violation of this Act.

In order to address several issues that may arise with call center employment, the Magna Carta requires the creation of a BPO Help Desk at both the national and regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment. Call center employees may also seek advice for the procedure in filing complaints for any violations of the Act. As mentioned above, the BPO help desk must also explain the terms of employment in the work contracts of call center employees

Section 7 – Grievance Mechanism

There shall be a mechanism in every company for the adjustment and resolution of grievances arising from the interpretation and enforcement of employment contracts and company personnel policies. This shall not require the prior existence of a collective bargaining agreement for the mechanism to be put in place.

All BPO companies must have a means for the adjustment and resolution of grievances arising from either the interpretation or enforcement of work contracts or work policies. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is not required to review these grievances.

Do you think the provisions are reasonable? Should the Senate pass the bill immediately? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!