The Senate Labor and Employment Committee on Thursday, March 10, advised the government to temporarily withdraw its ultimatum to business process outsourcing (BPO) companies to end work-from-home (WFH) agreements with their employees or lose tax incentives.
Villanueva, chairman of the committee, said “rising transport costs are a new development”, which should lead the government to extend its March 31 deadline for BPOs to end remote working.
The Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) has set the deadline for returning BPO employees to work as a condition for information technology and business process management companies in freeports and economic zones continue to benefit from tax advantages and tax incentives.
“I believe rising gas prices are exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which makes the call to extend the deadline very reasonable,” Villanueva said.
He explained that BPO workers and companies would bear the brunt of the order.
Forcing BPO workers to go to work would mean “money to put food on the table will now be spent at the gas pump”, he added.
“If the government is scrambling to ‘dilute the pain’ of soaring oil prices for many sectors like drivers and farmers, then 1.3 million BPO workers should be eligible for the same relief,” a- he declared.
Although they inject 1.5 trillion pesos into the economy each year, BPO workers “are not asking for billions of pesos in fuel subsidies”, he pointed out.
“They just want to be allowed to continue working from home. It is a mitigation measure that will cost the government nothing,” he said.
Villanueva disagreed with government claims that a return to work for call center workers would give local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) a needed economic boost.
“The location of their workstation has no bearing on their spending habits or the level of their savings,” he said.
In fact, by working from home, “BPO workers are keeping community businesses alive.”
Villanueva backed calls from industry to delay the timeline for returning to on-site work until the state of calamity lifts, “to allow for a smooth transition, for the benefit of our workers.”
He said if industry revenues – and their contribution to the economy – have not been affected by remote working, “then why revise a way of working that yields the same productivity?”
Villanueva earlier renewed his call to fully implement Republic Act No. 11165, or the Work From Home Act, which he sponsored and drafted during the 17th Congress.
The measure recognizes working from home – or telecommuting – as an alternative mode of work under the country’s labor laws.
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