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De Lima seeks inquiry over cases of ‘floating’ call center employees during pandemic

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MANILA — Detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima is seeking an investigation over cases of regular call center employees placed on floating status amid the coronavirus pandemic.

De Lima has expressed alarm after some regular employees of business processing outsource (BPO) companies were reportedly being put on floating status for up to 90 days as offshore accounts pulled out their Philippine operations due to the global economic downturn.

“Despite being regular employees, workers are left with no choice but to accept the status quo rather than face permanent retrenchment should they seek other employment opportunities elsewhere,” she said.

De Lima stressed that there is a need to review existing labor laws, policies and practices, which may require some legislative reforms to make them more responsive to the needs of workers amid the economic downturn brought about by the global health crisis.

“The designation of floating status to employees is a labor practice where employers capitalize on legal loopholes in order to protect assets and capital investments and clear them from any financial obligations they may have to their employees for extended periods of time,” she said.

Last May, it was reported that regular employees of some BPOs who came into contact with a COVID-19 patient were being placed on “floating status”, thereby prompting them to undergo a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine period—all without pay despite being regular employees.

“The fairness of existing labor laws and policies, such as the designation of floating status employees, should be re-examined, particularly during extraordinary times of crisis such as the one brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” De Lima’s Senate Resolution No. 462 read.

De Lima said while she acknowledged that designating employees to floating status is completely legal, problems arise when workers are left with no source of income for months at a time.

“More equitable labor arrangements should be institutionalized in order to balance the equation and provide protection to not just capital investments but, more importantly, the labor power supplied by workers themselves which serve as the key foundation of our economy,” she said.

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