The Outsourcing Week in Review: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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THE WEEK IN REVIEW

Many Philippine outsourcing firms have spent the past few days rapidly setting up working-from-home (WFH) operations to adjust to the Luzon lockdown, following the government’s announcement that they had until 20 March to transfer WFH equipment to their employees’ residences. The government also warned BPO companies that their operations could be shut down if they do not provide temporary shelter for their workers if needed to continue working amid the restrictions. BPO firms will be able to remain operational, but only if they meet these challenges, said cabinet secretary Karlo Nograles.

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So far, the industry is rising to the challenge. BPO firm Concentrix Philippines will release PHP1 billion (US$19.6 million) to support its staff, including advanced 13th-month pay; zero-interest loans for medical, house rental, utilities, or tuition fees; and salary advances for its Luzon staff. Similar initiatives have been taken by other BPO players in the country. But it is not easy.  Concentrix described the proposed WFH scheme as “highly unusual”. Outsourcing companies’ operations often require complex tools and high-level data security that are not easy to operate when workers are based at home. An example is multilingual outsourcing firm Open Access BPO which recently announced that it has secured a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (DSS) certification from the PCI Security Standards Council. The certification means the BPO firm has passed the stringent audits of its transaction safety and security protocols and infrastructure, which it will now need to maintain.

The government recognises the importance of the industry to the country’s employment and economic wellbeing, and has made concessions. BPO companies have been exempted from the Luzon-wide community quarantine, although some of their workers are concerned about the health dangers of continuing to go to work. Keeping business and employment going wherever possible is important. The nation is facing a big hit to its GDP growth this year, likely to drop from above 6% previously forecast, to only about 4.5%, says London-based think tank Capital Economics. Outside of the National Capital Region, both the Clark Freeport Zone and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone are still allowing BPO workers in to go to work. Cebu City now has a strict 8pm to 5am curfew, but BPO, food and pharmaceutical businesses are exempted. The Philippines Economic Zone Authority has called on all economic zones and offices around the country to continue operating wherever possible to ensure that services to clients and locators are not put at risk.

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Restricting travel in and out of the NCR is a key component of the government’s containment strategy currently scheduled to end on 14 April. Visas for all foreign visitors have now been stopped by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Checkpoints in and out of the capital have been set up. The Department of the Interior and Local Government has assured the public that workers and businessmen from the provinces will still be allowed to enter and leave Metro Manila during the upcoming lockdown. But the long lines at checkpoints into the NCR are making it difficult for many firms to stay adequately staffed. Taiwan’s electronics giant, Acer, has told its clients that the restrictions are resulting in disruptions to its contact center operations in the Philippines.  Struggling with reduced staff attendance, some firms are cutting back on work hours.  Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said that some have stopped working now on Sunday and Monday, although he was not aware of any company that has completely stopped work. Hinchliffe said reassuringly that all BPOs that he has spoken to have assured him that there are no plans to halt their operations.

Regardless of the difficulties, there is overwhelming agreement in the industry to support the government and the heroic healthcare workers who are risking their lives at the front line in the battle against the COVID-19 disease. The IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines joined 26 business groups that have pledged their commitment, and have vowed to ensure the “health and welfare” of their employees, clients, and other stakeholders as they try to navigate their businesses through the tough times ahead.

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

NEWS THIS WEEK

 

23 March 2020

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Concentrix Says WFH Highly Unusual For Outsourcing Industry – read article…

BPO Workers Exempted From Quarantine Checkpoints – read article…

DFA Suspends Visa Issuance For Foreigners – read article…

20 March 2020

Gov’t Gives BPO Firms Until March 20 For WFH Setup – read article…

Open Access BPO Receives PCI DSS Certification – read article…

Subic, Clark Shut Doors But BPO Workers Allowed In – read article…

19 March 2020

BPO Firms Told To Provide Temporary Shelter For Workers – read article…

BPO Exemption From Lockdown Worries Workers – read article…

Acer Notes Disruptions Following PH Quarantine – read article…

18 March 2020

Firms told to heed curfew in Cebu City; BPOs exempted – read article…

17 March 2020

BPO Firms Start Calling Off Work – read article…

Metro Lockdown May Put Economy At Risk – read article…

PEZA Orders Ecozones, Offices To Continue Operating – read article…

16 March 2020

DILG Makes Exceptions For Metro Manila Lockdown – read article…

Business Groups Air Support For Gov’t, Healthcare Workers – read article…

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