MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) Gloria Henry has called for an end to what she says is the “abuse, discrimination, and harassment” of business process outsourcing (BPO) employees, which she claims have become prevalent since cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine.
“Members of the public need to understand that the virus didn’t originate in Alorica, and coronavirus can affect anybody; it does not discriminate. The prime minister of the UK [Boris Johnson] got it, and is now back at work, and if you look at the statistics, it doesn’t discriminate whether you are a superstar or just an ordinary worker, so Jamaicans really need to stop the foolishness and give the employees a break,” Henry urged.
Alorica, whose employees make up the bulk of Jamaica’s 396 confirmed cases of COVID-19, was shuttered earlier this month after the outbreak of the virus at the BPO firm.
The spike in the cases linked to that call centre led to the Government ordering a lockdown of the parish of St Catherine.
Yesterday, Henry pointed to the importance of the BPO sector to the country’s economy.
“The sector brings in millions of dollars in foreign exchange. Tourism is down, agriculture is barely limping, the bauxite sector is also barely limping, and the BPO sector is the only sector right now that is bringing in substantial foreign exchange to support the economy,” she argued.
Added Henry: “We need that foreign exchange. We need it to buy goods and services abroad, and the wages that the employees are earning, that is what is able to create some buoyancy in the economy to support the different communities…”
The BPO sector, which employs roughly 38,000 workers, raked in US$600 million last year.
Meanwhile, the GSAJ president said her members are ensuring compliance and adherence to guidelines that are now ingrained in the Disaster Risk Management Order.
“Since the recent outbreak at a BPO centre, on April 17, the GSAJ increased the measures and implemented compulsory temperature checks and the wearing of masks. They also imported touchless thermometers from China and made them available to members, where needed. Members have been incredibly careful in their measures, mindful that no one wants either a sick employee or a closed site,” she argued.
“Very importantly, we conducted internal contact tracing of employees to determine if any had been in close contact with Alorica employees, activated testing of those who had been, and even voluntarily quarantined a site pending test results where a close contact was discovered,” said Henry, adding that “those results came back negative”.
On Monday, the Government announced that it has established a task force to implement new protocols for BPO facilities as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to head of the task force, Daryl Vaz, who has responsibility for investment at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, the new protocols will ensure that all operators in the BPO sector implement preventative measures in their operations, give the regulatory bodies an opportunity to thoroughly inspect their operations, among other measures.
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