Fri | Jul 10, 2020

Vaz, BPOs to meet on work-from-home model

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2020 | 12:24 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) has signalled to the Government that it has no objection to operators in the BPO sector being granted a special extension to its current work-at-home arrangement.

Metry Seaga, chairman of the JSEZA, disclosed Tuesday that his organisation had advised the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) of that position.

“We are not the ones to determine the length of the extension, but we are in support of the extension,” said Seaga.

On Monday, the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), which represents 73 firms operating locally, was still awaiting a response from the OPM.

The Gleaner has learned that a virtual meeting is scheduled for Thursday with Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, who heads the business process outsourcing (BPO) caucus of the Government’s Economic Recovery Task Force, the GSAJ, the JSEZA, and Jamaica Customs.

The outsourcing sector’s request is expected to be the main agenda item.

The GSAJ has submitted a request to Prime Minister Andrew Holness asking that the nearly 15,000 agents now working at home to continue until year end. The request was made prior to the end of the national order, which was made under the Disaster Risk Management Act and ended on May 31.

At the time of the request, the GSAJ said the work-at-home agents represented some 40 per cent of BPO staff islandwide, which fell from an estimated 43,000 last December to 36,000 currently. The Gloria Henry-led group said that an extension would ensure that sites can continue to practise social distancing to keep workers safe and employed.

However, the GSAJ could also seek to have up to 25 per cent of its labour pool continuing to work at home even after the pandemic ends. This is especially so since several firms have realised significant savings in operational costs, with fewer workers on site.

The BPO sector is considered one of the green shoots of the Jamaican economy, having amassed a workforce of nearly 40,000. In fact, the Government believes that BPOs could be the cushion for workers who have lost jobs in other industries.

“Jamaica is a natural fit for business process and knowledge process and global-services operations, and we will intensify our efforts in this regard, which will include improvements to our legal and regulatory framework and expanding our investment portfolio in the infrastructure to support the BPO industry,” Holness said recently.