The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) called on the Jamaican Government to carry out a full review into the working environment at Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies in the country. In a press release BITU President, Senator Kavan Gayle, said that while the majority of these companies, which are members of the umbrella body, appears to follow existing protocols, there are other operations which pay little attention to these requirements and therefore cannot be given the same protection as those who are in full compliance with international standards and guidelines.
“The union has heard the complaints of the staff of some of these institutions, is deeply concerned about these issues, and is calling for the review to ensure that this sector on which the country has placed so much confidence, in terms of reducing unemployment and increasing the capacity of its economy to recover and renew growth, are faithful to the agreements of the partnership”, he said.
“In light of the need for the nation to fully grasp the opportunities expected from the post Covid-19 environment, a review of the partnership arrangements, would ensure a much smoother path and enhanced employment culture and aimed at speeding up the nation’s recovery”, he expressed.
UNI Americas and its affiliate BITU state that the effect of COVID-19 should encourage Jamaican employers and workers to admit that there is a need for a proper working environment, which can protect BPO and similar types of workers from the threat of such dreaded diseases, and an investment in their health and working conditions which is essential to their partnership.
Marcio Monzane, UNI Americas regional secretary, said: “The cost of overcoming and recovering from this crisis can’t be born by workers and their families. There is no separating the health of the population and the strength of the economy. Employers have to find a way to balance bonuses for their executives and performance for shareholders, with their responsibility to overcome this and any future crisis”.
The union commended the Government for responding with a swift and responsible lockdown of St. Catherine, to minimize the spread of the disease and for ordering an investigation into the matter at Alorica Jamaica and directing a preliminary investigation into the possible cause to ensure that all requirements had been met. Such an investigation can only serve to highlight possible breakdowns and be used as lessons to inform future behavior of those concerned or those of liked mind.
BITU also suggested that the Joint Select Committee of Parliament currently reviewing the proposed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislation be invited to place emphasis on advising a legislative approach to effectively treat with pandemics of this nature. It also encourages both employers and employees to be more vigilant in the relevant protective measures which are being promoted by the Government, taking into account that the Section 12 of Jamaica’s Labour Relations Code speaks to various Acts of Parliament laying down minimum standards in respect of working conditions, where under sub-section 12(A)(i) prescribes that: “Management has a duty to … adopt suitable measures for the workers protection, and the prevention of the spread of epidemic or infectious disease”.
Since the spread of COVID 19 virus, the union has been receiving reports from its members on the lack of safety measures in certain sectors. Comrade Kavan Gayle said: “We are expressing solidarity with the families of any impacted worker and reaffirm our commitment to continue working with unionized entities to achieve effective measures that protect the lives of people while performing their jobs”.
“It is important to highlight the need to promote social isolation measures, creating economic conditions so that workers and their families can survive. This union is also demanding stronger measures to ensure crowd control, in order to protect workers whose jobs are essential in customer facing and also to stem the flow of the pandemic,” he concluded.