Solons tackle bill increasing night differential pay for BPO workers

The House Committee on Labor and Employment chaired by Rep. Randolph Ting (3rd District, Cagayan), prior to the congressional adjournment, deliberated on measures which provide for the welfare and protection of business process outsourcing (BPO) workers.

Cagayan 3rd district representative Randolph Ting. Photo credit: Conceptnewscentral.com

Among the bills tackled by the committee during the meeting was House Bill No. 2225 titled “An Act Increasing the Night Shift Premium Pay in Business Process Outsourcing Firms in the Philippines,” authored by Rep. Zajid Mangundadatu (2nd District, Maguindanao)

Otherwise known as “Additional Pay for Business Process Outsourcing Employees Act,” the bill seeks to increase the mandated additional pay for work done in graveyard shifts from 10 percent to 25 percent of the regular rate per hour.

In 2016, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) projected a $20-billion revenue. In 2017, an estimated 1.5 million new jobs were added by the industry. IBPA executive director Nicki Agcaoili informed the committee that the BPO industry is providing direct employment to 1.3 million Filipinos and 3.2 million indirect jobs.

Agcaoili said that while the BPO industry is appreciative of the measures which seek to protect the rights and welfare of its employees, other factors must also be considered. “We had to factor in competition like India and China. Currently, it is only the Philippines which offers night shift differential,” he added.

Agcaoili said that majority of the clients of the BPO industry are from North America but they also support the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), and the Asia-Pacific region. The bulk of the workers in the BPO industry cater to clients from North America, thus, 65 percent to 70 percent are working in the mid or night shift.

Ting asked Agcaoili, as the representative of the BPO industry, to explain the current practice in the industry. “The current practice is we pay 10 percent per hour if a call center agent’s shift falls 10 pm to 6 am. It is 10 percent of their hourly rate,” Agcaoili said.

“Is the starting salary of our BPO workers within the minimum wage?” Ting asked. Agcaoili answered in the affirmative, adding that the starting pay for an entry-level staff in the BPO industry is significantly higher compared to other industries.

Agcaoili said that workers usually last six to eight years in the industry. “On the average, career progression in industry is quite fast. From agent, they can progress to a team leader and then as supervisor manager,” Agcaoili added.

Dr. Valeriano Timbang of the Department of Health (DOH) said that working in a BPO company, especially those in night shift, is stressful and can have an adverse effect on body physiology. This could affect behavior in eating and sleeping, which could all lead to cardiovascular disease, he said.

Working night shifts may also take a toll on the health of the workers with older age, he said. Moreover, Timbang said they are particularly concerned with female workers who are pregnant. “We are concerned with the health of the mother and the child,” he said.

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