Modern-Day Slavery

modern day slavery

Workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry have filed a slew of grievances, including wage cuts and inequitable working conditions.

The employees, who talked to Sir P on the condition of anonymity, claimed the working circumstances they have had to undergo are causing their mental health to deteriorate. They claim that the problems they face on the job have sent them into a spiral, and they are seeking better care.

A 21-year-old woman who has been working in the industry for two years and seven months told Politricks Watch that she has to make affirmation cards to enhance her self-esteem on a regular basis.

“I feel that my mental health has deteriorated significantly since I started working here.” “I have to make a mental point to put on a professional persona and remind myself throughout the day that I have to maintain the façade,” she explained.

She related an example in which she was paid less than her monthly wage, noting that the BPO sector only compensates for productive time.

“I was late, and it was the responsibility of my company’s transportation,” she explained.

“I do believe that more should be done to enhance the BPO industry; they should begin treating BPO personnel as human beings rather than machines or business transactions,” she added.

Meanwhile, a 30-year-old at another firm who has advanced from an agent to an analyst in three years condemned his employer’s treatment as barbaric and stated that even the smallest misstep will result in the loss of monthly bonuses.

“You get fatigued and overwhelmed, especially if you accomplish the job but still fail to satisfy the standards, or if your reports contain mistakes.” “Our basic salary is already insufficient, and then we are rated individually on our performance by our supervisor each month, who then chooses what our incentive will be like,” he explained.

He agreed that more might be done to improve the plight of workers in the BPO industry, which he described as “modern slavery.”

“We have every reason to believe that. It is quite easy to replace you in this industry, especially given everything that is held against you and impacts your compensation. We need to be recognized more. I’ve discovered that Jamaica has the greatest customer service agents, but we are also the second lowest paid in the world. “I don’t think the leaders would object if we were robots,” he remarked.

A 22-year-old lady who has been working at another firm for one year and 11 months had a similar opinion.

“Well, the only issue is that dem treat you like yuh deh a school too much.” “Yuh haffi do everything on time, and if you’re one minute late from break, lunch, or work, it a come outta yuh salary,” she stated.

Some contact center employees have even gone to social media platforms such as Instagram to express their dissatisfaction.

“I did an entire 10-hour shift with no break and no lunch because they say, ‘All hands on deck,'” one worker said on Facebook.

“Every 22 days, you get one sick day.” “However, if you get ill, they don’t pay you for it,” stated another employee.

“It’s like they come up with a new wage system every week to grab your money,” said another employee.

When questioned why they haven’t looked for new professions, some contact center workers responded that alternative occupations scarcely pay more than $60,000 per month, which they get as agents. Others stated that the sector pays well at the management and operational levels.

However, contact center employers were chastised by attorney-at-law Khadrea Folkes for the behavior alleged by the employees. She stated that they should be more aware of elements that might impair workers’ mental health and that this state of affairs can lead to declining profits.

“Employers just need to recognize that they are working with humans, not robots, and that individuals, like machines, may become ill.” “It makes no sense to accommodate a worker who is worn out or unwell,” she remarked.

Folkes responded to reports that contact center workers’ salary is being tampered with, saying, “That can’t happen, you can’t delve into people’s income like that.” You cannot legislate humanity, and you should not be required to do so. The reality is that you are working with humans, and things will happen. If you are adamant about getting your time, allow them to work an extra minute rather than penalizing them, because things sometimes go wrong.

That seems like a modern-day sweatshop, which we cannot have in the country.”

Concerning unpaid sick days, Folkes stated that under Jamaican labor regulations, workers are entitled to 10 days of sick leave per year, and once that is exhausted, the company is not compelled to compensate the worker.

She did, however, propose that the company provide the opportunity for employees to take time off from other employment entitlements, such as vacation leave.

“So they are not breaching any laws by stating they will not be paid [after the 10 sick days have been used], but they should at least provide the alternative because not everyone can afford to miss work one day and not get paid.” A more logical approach would be to enable the employee to use that time off from work against other entitlements, such as vacation leave. What if they only require one or two days? “If they want to get compensated, they can take two days of vacation,” she suggests.

Folkes emphasized that the workers’ worries underline the need for the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, which, she said, would allow people to work in safe settings without jeopardizing their health.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated in May 2019 that the OSH Bill, which was then before a joint select committee, was likely to be enacted in Parliament by December 2019. However, former state minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne stated that the committee would be unable to properly study the Bill until the dissolution of Parliament in August 2020.

Meanwhile, Yoni Epstein, chairman and CEO of itelBPO Solutions, stated that all employees are given a contract outlining their job responsibilities.

When asked about the charges made by call center workers, he stated, “I can’t speak for the industry, but I can answer for my organization.” All of our workers receive employment letters outlining the terms of their employment. If someone is late for work and you arrive late, you are only compensated for the hours that you work. Furthermore, if you quit work early, you are not compensated for the hours you are not working.

“You hear all kinds of complaints about contact centers, but it’s a very competitive market that’s also very measurable,” Epstein noted.

Epstein, on the other hand, agreed with Folkes that employees should be permitted to work overtime after finishing shifts if they are late, based on the volume of work required.

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