By Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman), May 11, 2017
The women activists in this country should focus their attention to the thousands of women working in the night call centers.
The case of that female call center agent, a college graduate from Zamboanga City, who was robbed, mauled and murdered somewhere in Guadalupe, Makati City while going home from a graveyard shift in a BPO firm has remained unsolved. There is no arrest, not even a clue on the identity of the perpetrator. The police have many other priorities. The employer has no interest in helping solve the crime. They are not even concerned about the safety and security of their own people.
No less than the Supreme Court in a recently decided case has deplored the hard and hazardous work conditions for call center agents especially those who work on graveyard shifts. The government, especially the DOLE should focus on this special kind of work that creates some challenging problems to authorities and Philippine society as a whole.
In a case entitled ICT Marketing Services Inc.(SYKES) versus Mariphil L.Sales, (GR 202090) decided on September 9, 2015, the Supreme Court through Justice Mariano del Castillo says “The work of Mariphil as a customersales representative (CSR), which is that of a call center agent, is not easy. For one, she was made to work the graveyard shift from the late at night to midnight until dawn or early morning. This clearly takes a toll on anyone’s physical health. Indeed, call center agents are subjected to conditions that adversely affect their physical, mental, and emotional health, exposed to extreme stress and pressures at work, by having to address customers’ needs and insure their satisfaction, while simultaneously being conscious of the need to ensure more efficiency at work, by improving productivity and a high level of services.”
The Supreme Court went on saying: “They are subjected to excessive control and surveillance by management, exposed to verbal abuses from customers, suffer social alienation precisely because they work the graveyard shift, while family and friends are at rest, and when they themselves are at rest, their family and friends are up and about.And they work at quick-paced environments and under difficult circumstances owing to progressive demands and ambitious work quotas imposed by management. To top it all, they are not exactly well-paid for the work they have to do and the harsh conditions they have to endure. In this case, the Supreme Court deplored the act of management in transferring Sales from one account to another just because the girl made a complaint on certain things that seemed not to be right.
In declaring that the girl was subjected to constructive dismissal, the Court held: “In causing the call center agent’s transfer, the company acted in bad faith, and with discrimination, insensitivity and disdain.The transfer was effected as a form of punishment for raising a valid grievance related to her work. Furthermore, said transfer was obviously unreasonable, not to mention, contrary to experience, logic and good business sense.
This being the case, the transfer amounted to constructive dismissal. The employer was ordered by the Court to pay some millions in form of full backwages for more than ten years, separation pay, moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and legal interest on all money until fully paid. This is not just about money. This is about justice. If I can help, I will never allow my daughters or granddaughters to work in a call centers, especially at night.
That girl from Zamboanga who was the sole family breadwinner worked graveyard and went straight to her grave.
And the call center firms are not even expressing grave concern. And so, would you want your girl to work there?
Calling all the women activists, why are you mysteriously silent?