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BPOs move away from ecozones to keep WFH for workers

Information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) firms are reportedly beginning to move away from ecozones administered by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) as they either register with the Board of Investments (BOI) or have their companies listed as normal corporations to help retain their employees working from home. This in response to the “return to office” or “back to office” scheme being mandated in the Philippines starting April 1.

Earlier, the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) decided via Resolution 19-21 to allow the hybrid work scheme until March 31, 2022, with work-from-home (WFH) or work-from-anywhere (WFX) available for up to 90 percent of BPO workers.

“What we’ve been telling them is the same incentives if you fall under the BOI-covered incentives under the different tiers then maybe just register with the BOI because that business model works for you,” said Department of Finance Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez in an interview with CNN Philippines, “We have other locators who are now deregistering from PEZA and registering as normal corporations.”

From 2016 to 2019, Alvarez noted that IT-BPO firms have enjoyed an average of PHP 26.30 billion in total tax incentives. She also cited that there are locators willing to comply with the mandate to operate in ecozones.

Bpo Industry

In a separate interview also with CNN Philippines, Concentrix Senior Vice President and Country Manager Amit Jagga announced that Concentrix decided to let go of its fiscal incentives to keep the benefits of hybrid work. According to him, over a million BPO workers currently contribute to the economy under the hybrid model.

“Most of our sites are with PEZA. It is becoming tough. While the government wants us back, and we are happy to operate, but out staff really want to be home,” Jagga explained, “This will not only create an impact on the overall competitiveness of the Philippines, but it will also create an impact on our staff.”

Concentrix has reportedly registered two of its new sites with the BOI. At the moment, around 35 percent of Concentrix employees are working on site, while the remaining 65 percent still work through the hybrid setup.

For their part, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ruth Castelo clarified in a Laging Handa Briefing that their department can review for those who would file exemptions to the FIRB decision, “Pwede naman silang manghingi ng exemption kung talagang mai-justify nila, they can request DTI – Secretary Lopez will look into it – para kung makakapag-exempt. But ang thrust talaga natin is to encourage economic activity.”

Meanwhile, PEZA has called for BPO companies to abide by the FIRB regulations as they continue to campaign for the implementation of an extended hybrid work setup.

“PEZA supports the hybrid work scheme as it’s been proven effective in the last three years of pandemic. What we can do is to recommend this for the next administration to address. As of now, we have to abide by the existing laws and the decision of the FIRB and help to put the economy back to normal,” said PEZA Director General Charito Plaza, who has also expressed intent on following how other nations such as India conducted their hybrid schemes.

To recall, PEZA has reportedly coordinated with the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) in proposing three hybrid work arrangements for the BPO industry implemented in staggered phases: 60 percent (onsite)-40 percent (WFH), 40 percent (onsite)-60 percent (WFH) or an equal 50-50 percent share for onsite and WFH arrangement.

On the side of BPO workers, the BPO Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN) Pilipinas cited that little preparation has been done for the transition to return to office.

“Wala pong naging workers’ consultation, so biglaan na lang ‘yung desisyon nila na bumalik on site,” said BIEN Treasurer Arcy Parayno, “Regarding tax incentives, sana hindi lang companies nabibigyan, pati ang BPO workers kasi katulad noong nakaraang lockdown, wala namang natanggap na ayuda ang mga BPO workers.”

BIEN is also advocating a salary increase, particularly for those who will return to their workplaces. They, however, bucked the threat earlier made by some BPO workers’ groups that there will be “mass resignation.”

“Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, lalo na may banta pa rin ng Covid at ang taas ng mga bilihin, hangga’t maaari ayaw namin magkaroon ng mass resignation,” Parayno added.

It was the Alliance of Call Center Workers (ACW) which earlier revealed its survey of members regarding their response to the FIRB decision. A poll done by the group revealed that 157 of their members are mulling resignation from their jobs if the work-from-home (WFH) or work-from-anywhere (WFX) scheme will no longer be allowed, 117 are undecided, and 37 members indicated that they will stay in their work even if they have to go back to their offices.

Contrary to BIEN’s claim, however, the FIRB has maintained that they have done the consultations with the IT-BPO sector “even prior to its August 2021 meeting where Resolution 19-21 was adopted.”

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Avatar for Arius Lauren Raposas

A public servant with a heart for actively supporting technology and futures thinking, responding accordingly to humanity's needs and goals, increasing participation of people in issues concerning them, upholding rights and freedoms, and striving further to achieve more despite our limited capacities. In everything, to God be all the glory.

13 Responses

  1. Avatar for Jona Jona says:

    Indeed, there’s been a notable shift in the BPO landscape as companies pivot from traditional ecozones, opting to embrace work-from-home (WFH) arrangements for their workforce. This strategic move not only caters to the evolving needs and preferences of employees but also aligns with the current global trend favoring remote work setups. Companies like Allied Fusion BPO have been at the forefront of this transition, leveraging technology and innovative approaches to empower their teams to work efficiently from home while maintaining the high standards of service delivery they’re known for. This shift demonstrates adaptability and a commitment to employee well-being while ensuring uninterrupted and exceptional service to clients. Learn more about how Allied Fusion BPO is navigating these changes and continuing to excel in delivering top-notch BPO solutions at https://www.alliedfusionbpo.com.

  2. Avatar for Erick Erick says:

    The effort to put back workers on site can be beneficial to the economy, especially the big businesses and corporations inside the Economic Zones but the FIRB failed to consider the side of the workers before coming up with their decision. With the WFH setup, workers were able to save portion of their salaries since they dont have to
    commute to work, pay rent for their temporary housing, etc. These savings, gives BPO workers more spending power and fuels income for MSME’s within our local area. Everyone must remember that when the pandemic started, all businesses were forced to close and stop operating except for one business sector….. and that is the BPO sector. Give us some respect please. Shame!

    • Avatar for NorthgaterKid NorthgaterKid says:

      Ganyan din company pinapasukan ko from Alabang, they give up the incentive PEZA is giving – tax break, just to accomodate almost all employess WFH. Atrition is low since wfh was implemented. Local bussinesses strive as employees save a lot and spend it within thebcommunity. Govt should further study implementing hybrid work or we will lost most BPO work.

  3. Avatar for Rei Rei says:

    Yung industry na bumuhay sa atin nung 2020-2022 ay yung parehong industry na pinapatay nyo ngayon. Clients are already considering moving to India or “on-shoring” their operations like sa US where less restrictive, competitive and less repugnant ang BPO industry.

    • Avatar for Paul Paul says:

      Since comments seem to be more on the BPO’s side, let’s play devil’s advocate for the government.
      As we know, April is tax season. During the pandemic, tax collection is way down compared to the previous years. Mandating back-to-work, as well forcing businesses to give up their tax perks so they can keep WFH privileges for their employees, are both ways to increase the tax revenue. Even if means frying the proverbial golden goose which is the BPO industry.

      In any case, this is all the more reason to go out and vote this May 2022 and elect officials who actually know fiscal management at the national level. Since at this point we can expect the current admin to pass the decision to the next administration.

    • Avatar for Joe Joe says:

      Di kasi nag iisip para sa kapakanan lang nila ni di man lang naisip kapakanan Ng mamayang Pilipino? For the elite few! Payagan nio naman kami Maka bawi! May binigay man lang ba kayo Nung pandemic na ayuda sa Amin?! Kung Maka galaw kayo parang gusto nio kayo kayo lang nag dedesisyon! Ramdamin nio kapag nag gyera na at dahil alyado Ang Pinas sa Russia (indirectly) tapos mag pull out mga client! Sana nga mabasa Ng America at lahat Tayo sa Kang kungan Ang bagsak! Paka sugapa nio!

  4. Avatar for Gerald Gerald says:

    As the BPO Industry in the Philippines moves from American management to Filipino or other nationality management, the way of conducting their operations is becoming more third wordly, and not up to par salary-wise to their agents and working-conditions-wise compared to call centers in the United States of America or Europe. It is just right that government and service-providers look into how BPOs operate in the Philippines.

  5. Avatar for Harvy Harvy says:

    Hindi niyo na kami binibgyan Ng considerasyun knowing the fact that Hindi niyo kami binibgyan Ng tax incentives Nung pandemic at kami nag papa angat Ng ekonomiya .. work from home lang di nio pa maibigay samantalang Ang U. S. They allow wfh sa mga nagreresign. Imbes na ganahan kami sa pagttrabaho dahil kapailing Ang mga anak pamilya makaiwas sa gastusin sa city and whatnot BPO pa pag estrictuhan ninyo.

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