The Washington Post’s headline says it all: “Your call was important to Glen Palaje. It may have cost him his life.”
For eight years, Palaje worked at a Teleperformance call centre in Quezon City, Philippines, where the 50-year-old father of seven was often referred to as “dad” because of his mentoring role. When he became sick with COVID in August 2020—which his family and colleagues say he caught at on the job—his years of service were rewarded with “neglect,” according to one co-worker.
Palaje died soon after he contracted the virus.
The Post reports that Teleperformance’s on-site clinic did not provide a coronavirus test, and because of the company’s “No Work, No Pay” policy, Palaje could not afford to call out sick.
“The workers are afraid of being found to be sick — like they’d be abandoned if they were,” his daughter said.
This tragic story is all too common.
The Quezon City government has documented 2,600 cases in the region’s call centres, and the Business Process Outsourcing Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN) estimates that outbreaks in call centres account for a significant number of cases across the country.
In April 2020, the Financial Times found “subhuman” conditions at Teleperformance’s Philippine operations. These conditions, in part, led UNI Global Union to file an OECD specific instance alleging that Teleperformance violated workers’ right to a safer workplace during the pandemic across its global operations—including the Philippines.
In response to UNI’s filing, the French National Contact Point to the OECD issued a powerful set of recommendations—many singling out the Philippines—including that Teleperformance strengthen its health and safety due diligence and cooperate with social partners such as unions and workers’ groups.
“Teleperformance should listen to workers, to unions, and to the French NCP to create a workplace that is truly safe and where employee rights are respected,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “UNI is willing to sit down with Teleperformance to chart a way forward.”