BPO Labor Disputes

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First things first: understand that in almost all instances, when there is a dispute between a call center agent and a BPO, that the best recourse is to solve things internally first before escalating to the government.

Secondly, before you, dear BPO employee, make a decision to involve the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), please make sure that you are not driven by emotion. Don’t do things because you want revenge, or because you are after the monetary damages that may be awarded to you. DOLE does not factor how you feel when deciding on things. It will all be about the facts. pushAUX.com

And lastly, if you do decide to file a labor complaint against your call center/BPO – be ready to dig in and fight in the long term. Some complaints get resolved in as short as one arbitration session, to as long as 30-60 days (DOLE-NLRC standard).

Let’s Look at the Fundamentals

Some things you need to be aware of before you pull the trigger and file a complaint with DOLE.

  1. A BPO has the prerogative to lay down its rules and regulations and define these in an employee handbook. A BPO is a private company, and as long as it does not break the law, it can operate independently of the government.
  2. But a BPO cannot force its employees to follow any rule or regulation that violates the law. For example – a BPO cannot declare that its female employees go back to work 15 days after giving birth when the law prescribes a minimum of two months.
  3. But a BPO can still implement/enforce rules that are not strictly defined under the law. For example – a BPO can say that a call center agent may be fired after three warnings/violations on the use of the office sleeping quarters.

So when does escalating to DOLE become a final solution for resolving a dispute?

  1. When there is an impasse on how the BPO employee rules and regulations are interpreted.
  2. When the BPO no longer wants to resolve things (i.e. the agent/employee asks for meetings to discuss more, and the BPO does not respond). At this point – it’s time to go to war.

Ready to File a Complaint? Preparation is Key!!

If you want to file a complaint, take note that a BPO will hold a lot of information covering your case, plus all the records covering your stay with the company. If you got suspended in the past for something unrelated to your complaint – then bet that the BPO may raise this as a factor that influenced their decision.

On your end, you will also need to arm yourself with documentation. This may include your employee contract, the BPO employee handbook, emails, texts, or even testimony from your fellow call center agents. Get these printed on paper, and have photocopies ready!

NLRC What?

Under the Department of Labor (DOLE) is the National Labor Relations Commission (the NLRC), it is this group that is tasked to resolve labor and management disputes through arbitration. We won’t list the entire case coverage of the NLRC, but here are a few key ones that would matter:

  • Unfair labor practices
  • Termination disputes
  • Disputes covering wages, rates of pay, hours of work, etc.
  • Claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages

If you want to do a quick check, contact the 24/7 hotline of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) at 1349.

Step by Step!

STEP 0 Bring some cash, there may be some processing fees involved. This should not reach P1K though. Also, pang mirienda, you are going to a government office so expect to be there a while.

STEP 1 Find the nearest NLRC office to where you live, and seek out the information desk (or the security guard). Ask where you can get a complaint form (we checked the DOLE website, it’s not downloadable) and fill it up. If you need to find out which NLRC office is near you, click this LINK.

STEP 2 Get a number (again, check with the help desk where you can get this – like all government offices, better if you arrive early so you can get served first).

STEP 3 When your number is called, proceed to the complaint window and submit the filled up complaint form, along with photocopies of the “evidence” that you brought with you.

STEP 4 The person at the complaint window will ask you a few questions. Don’t be scared, he/she just wants to check if everything is accounted for. Be prepared to give a short summary of your labor complaint.

STEP 5 You will then be asked to proceed to the arbiters office (ask people around for directions if you need to go to another area in the building).

STEP 6 At the arbiters office, you either meet the actual arbiter that will handle your case, or you meet the office secretary. Either way, your documents will be reviewed again. If everything is in order, your complaint will be formally received and it will now have a “live case” status (make sure you get the name and contact details of your arbiter, or his/her secretary, for reference).

STEP 7 You will get a hearing schedule (If not, the arbiters office will contact you for your hearing date).

Your BPO/call center will also get the same hearing schedule – and the both of you will meet to discuss the labor case you filed, in front of the arbiter (again, don’t worry – as far as we’ve heard, the arbiters at the NLRC are very very fair).

Now, no matter what happens, you should be present in the hearing. If you are absent – or if the call center representative does not appear, the case will still be heard and decided on.

For more info on NLRC procedure, click this LINK (it’s a bit hard to understand, but if you are serious about your case then it will be good if you read this PDF)

Win or Lose, Do the Right Thing!

The NLRC is there to make sure that an amicable settlement is arrived at between you and your former employer. Note that most call centers/BPO’s are more inclined to settle disputes vs. going to court, which costs more time and money for everyone involved (be ready to get a compensation offer. If you’re asking for P100K, and the call center/BPO offers P75K instead – please think hard before your turn things down).

If you don’t get your way, you may go to the next step: hiring a lawyer, and suing the company in court. At all times, unless what the BPO/call center did was so grave, it would be better to settle.

Mistakes Winners Make!

If the arbiter decides in your favor, don’t be an asshole about things.

  • The arbiter may prescribe an amount lower than what you are asking for. Please think hard if you want to turn this down.
  • The call center/BPO may ask you to sign a waiver, after you receive compensation. Read the document, then sign it. The Call center/BPO just needs to make sure that your complaint is settled and over already – that no more future complaints regarding the matter will come, hence the waiver.
  • Don’t go on you Facebook account and brag about your victory. It’s really in bad taste – the call center where you work for made a mistake, they paid for it already. It should end there.

And the most important question of all – when you apply for your next BPO job, do you need to declare the labor case you filed? The answer is no. The decision of a company to hire you or not should never ever be influenced by past labor cases you have filed from past employers; this would be highly discrimatory. You get hired based on the skills that you have and the position that needs to be filled. Period.

The Final Word on BPO Labor Disputes

Again, if you can resolve a labor issues internally with your BPO/call center, all the more the better for everyone. You need to realize that corporations are not perfect, they may commit mistakes from time to time – and you need to give the company where you work for the chance to correct things. pushAUX.com

Here Are Some Useful Links on the State of BPO Labor in the Philippines!

Philippines: a Magna Carta for Call Centre Workers! Click THIS!

Santiago Refiles Magna Carta for Call Center Workers Bill! Ckick THIS!

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