By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

BUSINESS process outsourcing (BPO) workers are asking the government to impose stricter penalties on companies that violate workplace health safety.

The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) in a press conference on Tuesday said that government monitoring is not enough to ensure the safety of employees.

Hindi sapat yung monitoring. Kapag nagkamali yung company, sasabihin lang nila na gawin itong tama. Walang pagbibigay ng penalties, kaya di matatakot yung mga company (Monitoring is not enough. A remiss company is simply told to do right. Penalties are not meted, thus companies will have no fear),” BIEN Vice-President Sarah Prestoza said.

Under government guidelines, private establishments that fail to comply will be temporarily closed until they follow the protocols. The Trade and Labor departments have not responded to questions about the implementation of temporary closures or additional penalties.

Ms. Prestoza said that the government should offer mass testing against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to workers, and should implement extensive contact tracing. It must also tell businesses to give workers devices for work-from-home measures, she said.

She said that outsourcing companies told BIEN that they are only following government guidelines.

Pero kung yung gobyerno, mahina ang pagtulak, walang maayos na proseso kung paano ito ginagawa… ginagawa man ng kumpanya ang best nila, limitado pa rin yung kakayahan (But if the government is lax, and has no process to follow, even if companies do their best, their capability will remain limited).”

She said workers are often checked for their temperature, but not tested. Neither is there any contact tracing, she added.

Employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must undergo PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing under government workplace safety guidelines.

Employees working on site must be screened for symptoms, but the government does not require rapid testing of asymptomatic employees returning to work.

Nadia de Leon, executive director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development, said in the press conference that the government workplace safety guidelines are “weak” and “lax” and the supplemental guidelines issued last week are not enough to stop the spread of the virus.

Hindi nito ina-address ’yung (The guidelines do not address the) major reasons for the spread of the disease,” she said, noting that testing guidelines are vague.

“Mass testing ay naka-depende pa rin sa mga (still depend on) employers. Walang (There is no) clear provision that the government will shoulder the expense for mass testing for workers.”

Contact tracing, she said, is still slow and inefficient at workplaces.