RJR News /
The Ministry of Labour has asserted that it has received no report of companies in Jamaica’s business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector not conforming to core labour standards in their employment practices.
Concerns have been raised in various quarters about workers at call centres not being able to obtain trade union representation as well as the high turnover rate and low wages in the sector.
RJR News raised the concerns with Labour Minister Shahine Robinson, who responded that the ministry was “not so aware because we have not received any formal complaints stating that is so.”
She did not say whether there had been any anecdotal report but promised that “if in the event that the ministry does receive a written complaint, then we will investigate.”
Robinson’s response comes against the background of the government being urged to resist doing business with companies that do not conform to core labour standards in their employment practices.
St. Patrice Ennis, General Secretary of the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP), raised the issue Sunday on RJR’s That’s a Rap , pointing to the BPO sector as one field in which union membership is difficult to achieve.
“It’s never easy to represent workers when there is no security of tenure, because the most important thing to a worker is his job, so anything that would seem to threaten that would be something that he would stay from, and that is what now confronts many of the workers in the PBO (sector); they are on one-year to two-year contracts,” he explained.
He declared that the same problems have long been evident in private security companies in Jamaica, which remain resistant to union representation for workers.
Accordingly, he wants the government to apply pressure on these companies by not doing business with those which are not compliant with core labour standards, established by the International Labour Organization.
“If the government wanted different standards, all is ‘we’re only doing business with entities that have proper labour standards, and the security guard industry would conform with such standards, as the government is the largest employer and business operator in the country,” he said.
RJR News also sought a reaction from Dr Horace Chang, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, regarding claims of the payment of low wages in the BPO sector.
He denied knowledge of poor labour practices on the part of BPO companies, claiming that “the larger companies who are up-scaling in fact have better wage rates than the current Jamaican workforce among companies that employ large numbers of individuals.”