Skyrocketing gas prices that will make commuting to work more expensive for thousands of call center workers should prompt the government to “temporarily withdraw its ultimatum to BPOs” to end the work-from-home or remote work arrangement of their employees or lose tax incentives, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.
Villanueva said that “rising transport cost is a new development,” which should lead the government to extend its March 31 deadline for BPOs to terminate remote work.
The Fiscal Incentives Review Board has set that deadline for BPO employees to return to office as a condition for information technology and business process management firms in freeports and economic zones to continue enjoying tax perks and fiscal incentives.
“I believe that the rise in gas prices is exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which makes the appeal to extend the deadline a very reasonable one,” the veteran legislator said.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development stressed both workers and BPO firms will bear the brunt of the order.
“Forcing BPO workers to commute to work would mean money to put food on the table will now be spent at the gas pump.”
Forcing BPO workers to commute to work would mean “that money to put food on the table will now be spent at the gas pump,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
“If government is scrambling to ‘soften the pain’ of surging oil prices for many sectors like drivers and farmers, then 1.3 million BPO workers should be entitled to the same mitigation,” the senator said.
But BPO workers, he pointed out, in spite of plowing P1.5 trillion into the economy yearly, “are not asking for billions of pesos in fuel subsidy”.
“They just want to be allowed to continue working from home. It is a mitigation measure that will not cost the government anything.”
“They just want to be allowed to continue working from home. It is a mitigation measure that will not cost the government anything,” Villanueva said.
He disagreed with government claims that a return-to-work for call center employees will provide local micro, small, and medium enterprises with a needed economic jolt.
“Bakit hindi ba nila ginagastos nang buo ang sweldo nila kahit nasa bahay sila nagtratrabaho? Pareho lang nagagamit ang sweldo nasa opisina man o nasa bahay,” Villanueva said.
“The location of their workstation has no bearing on their spending habits or the level of their savings,” he said.
In fact, by working at home, “BPO workers are keeping community enterprises alive”.
Villanueva backed industry calls to set back the deadline to return to onsite work until the lifting of the state of calamity, “to allow for seamless transition, for the sake of our workers.”
He said if industry earnings – and their contribution to the economy – have not been impacted by remote work, “then why revise a working arrangement that yields the same productivity?”
Villanueva earlier renewed his call to fully implement Republic Act No. 11165 or the Work From Home Law, which he sponsored and authored during the 17th Congress.
The measure recognizes work from home–or telecommuting–as an alternative work arrangement under the country’s labor laws.