The Outsourcing Week in Review: Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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Welcome to Inside Outsourcing: The Outsourcing Week in Review

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

Manila may have had its lockdown eased, but the country’s battle against the pandemic is far from over.

After a two-week timeout for medical frontliners, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night announced the re-easing of quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and nearby provinces (Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna). The capital is now back in General Community Quarantine (GCQ), which allows all industries in these areas to reopen again, until at least August 31st.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy with the decision…

Academics from the University of the Philippines recommended a 15-day extension of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) saying that the “premature” easement of lockdown could result in an “uncontrolled” COVID-19 surge.

To manage the pandemic within workplaces, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have jointly released the Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Joint Memorandum Circular No. (JMC) No. 20-04).  The JMC provides far-reaching instruction for business owners including the provision of shuttle services for their employees, disinfection and washing resources, supplies/materials such as handwashing stations, soap and sanitizers, and social distancing standards. The JMC also covers COVID testing suggesting methods and frequency – and seems to be placing all cost-burden firmly in the court of the businesses.

Possibly in a sign of things to come, Bacolod City’s local government has been sending in inspectors to conduct random visits to BPO companies’ offices to ensure their compliance with the COVID-19 health protocols. City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said that the health and safety of workers in the call industry should be a priority considering the vital role the BPO firms play in the local economy.

Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Charito Plaza admits that the pandemic has “affected the economy badly”, however, the promotions agency is expressing hope that it will attract more investments in the coming months. This is welcome optimism since a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed that adult joblessness in the Philippines has hit a record-high 45.5% in July 2020, which is equivalent to 27.3 million Filipinos. According to official data, the country also recorded the highest jobless rate in Southeast Asia at 18.5 per cent. According to Malaysian financial giant Maybank, about eight million Filipinos are expected to lose their jobs as the pandemic continues to overwhelm the economy. This is much higher than its SEA neighbors, Thailand (15.9%), Malaysia (6.5%), Indonesia (5.9%). Singapore (4%), and Vietnam (3.6%).

The Department of Finance (DOF) is putting on a brave face saying they’ve seen a “gradual and phased recovery” as business operations began to stabilize from June following weeks of strict lockdowns. Meanwhile, property giant Megaworld Corporation has credited the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for shielding the landlord from the full impact of the pandemic.  They credit their resilience to the fact that 90 per cent of the group’s tenants are BPOs and captive corporate offices of multinationals.  Which suggests they haven’t been offering much rent relief to their struggling BPO tenants…

It has not been the best week for Cebu’s outsourcing industry. BPO firm Aspire Global was ordered to shut down by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) after allegedly violating quarantine protocols that led to the spread of COVID. The incident involved 34 staff who were billeted in a nearby hotel.  The hotel and three floors of the BPO located at the Cebu I.T. Park were forced to close after seven employees of Aspire BPO contracted the virus. Also in its Cebu office, Sykes Philippines confirmed reports that some employees have been involved in illegal fraudulent activity. The BPO giant’s confirmation came in response to ongoing unofficial reports circulating in social media, alleging that at least three of their employees siphoned a total of P60 million by participating in online scams.

It seems that BPOs are beginning to adapt to a ‘new normal’ that is home-based.  TaskUs CEO Bryce Maddock announced via the company’s Facebook page that they are letting its global workforce of over 12,000 people Work From Home (WFH) until at least the end of 2020. Meanwhile, the BPO giant Concentrix, which employs more than 260,000 staff, has launched SecureCX, a Work-at-Home (WAH) platform to support the customer experience and accommodate remote working. SecureCX is a proprietary platform offering a suite of WAH security, monitoring and productivity technologies including facial recognition for authentication, monitoring of mobile phone use, shoulder surfing and nearby recording devices and ports and reduction of background noise.

Overseas, the Australian telco giant Telstra has announced plans to close down its Philippines back-office operations, meaning the loss of 12,000 jobs for its Filipino workers. The company explained that since the pandemic it has got a clearer idea of what the future of its workforce should look like, and how its customers will expect to deal with big companies in the post-pandemic era. They said of their ‘T22 strategy’ that COVID had caused it to “fast-track the digitization and automation of many of its processes and systems”, which can accelerate the demise of its offshore call centers. Earlier this year, the company found itself in hot water when its Philippine call center staff were reportedly made to sleep at their offices and work in breach of social distancing standards.

In news updates, Christopher Bauer, the Philippine-based former executive of Germany’s disgraced Wirecard AG, has suddenly died in a Manila hospital due to blood poisoning. The 44-year-old, who was otherwise well, was implicated alongside the Philippines in the missing US$2.1bn Wirecard fraud. Wirecard, which was previously Germany’s technology superstar, has since gone into insolvency, the CEO has been arrested and authorities are trying to unravel the deep-seated scandal. The Philippine Central Bank has said that it is open to coordination with international authorities to hold individuals involved in the Wirecard scandal accountable.

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

NEWS THIS WEEK

 

18 August 2020

  • Metro Manila, nearby provinces reverted to GCQ starting August 19 – read article…
  • BPO firm: Action taken on workers involved in ‘fraud’ – read article…
  • Indian tech companies hoping global 5G race resumes next year – read article…
  • New coronavirus mutation found in the Philippines – read article…

17 August 2020

14 August 2020

  • Megaworld says BPOs blunted impact of COVID-19 – read article…
  • BPO firm put on lockdown for allegedly violating quarantine protocols – read article…
  • Concentrix releases remote work platform with facial biometric authentication – read article…
  • PH jobless rate highest in SEA – read article…

13 August 2020

  • Telstra’s digitization may accelerate demise of its offshore call centers – read article…
  • Bacolod City closely monitors BPO firms adherence to protocols – read article…
  • Indian companies now offering WFH allowance – read article…
  • Businesses observed “gradual and phased recovery” in June – read article…

12 August 2020

  • Former Wirecard manager died of blood poisoning in Manila – Bild – read article…
  • Bacolod VM warns against discrimination on BPO workers – read article…
  • PEZA expects more investments in second semester – read article…
  • Accenture acquires Brazilian agency Set up Cloud Labs – read article…

Read more Inside Outsourcing Newsletters here:

  1. The Outsourcing Week in Review: August 5, 2020
  2. The Outsourcing Week in Review: August 26, 2020

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