In the early 1800s, a Scotsman by the name of Robert Owen gained international fame for his unique commercial success. But it wasn’t so much about his flourishing business than his revolutionary idea of social reform. By creating workplaces that are safe for his workers — something uncommon at his time — he gained their confidence and they worked more efficiently. His reputation grew further into our history books.
Inspired by Owen’s vision and haunted by the injustice that quietly plagues the BPO industry, Rethink Staffing launched itself as a “Fair Trade Call Center” on January 26. The promise of fair pay and economic progress, personal safety and progress, and transparency and accountability are enshrined in what is deemed now as the organization’s social contract with its agents — The Agent Bill of Rights (ABOR).
While the ABOR may come across as sweeping, it’s merely an adaptation of what workers are already entitled to in the 1987 Philippine Constitution — things like “justice” and “equality” that are mentioned as early as the Preamble. It’s indeed unfortunate that Filipino employees are unaware of their rights, and allow some foreign capitalists to enslave them in their own Motherland in the 21st century.
Here are the 10 tenets of the Agent Bill of Rights, and the explanatory statements for each based on Philippine laws and the Constitution.
AS LONG AS WE HAVE BUSINESS, YOU HAVE A JOB.
WHAT IT MEANS: There will always be an available job just as long as you remain productive. Even if accounts close, you’ll be moved to another team which matches your skill set. We understand that job security means economic progress for you and your family.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution clearly states that “[workers] shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.”
In addition, the Bureau of Working Conditions of the Department of Labor and Employment compiled a list of a worker’s Basic Rights, the second of which is the assurance of security of tenure which means “no employee can be dismissed from work except for a just or authorized cause, and only after due process.”
YOU WILL HAVE ACCESS TO PROGRAMS THAT WILL FUEL YOUR SUCCESS.
WHAT IT MEANS: The company supports your holistic development particularly your personality, leadership, and skills.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Section 18, Article II of the 1987 Constitution acknowledges “labor as a primary social economic force.” Protecting the rights of workers and promoting their welfare is crucial to nation-building. Rethink Staffing understands that empowering its workers will provide them with more opportunities to move up the socioeconomic ladder, further helping their families, communities, and the national economy.
WE WILL NEVER DENY YOU JOB MOVEMENT OR ADVANCEMENT.
WHAT IT MEANS: As the company grows, so will you. We will always encourage and support you to advance in your career. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new agent; when a leadership position opens, and your quality of work and attitude meets our standards, we’ll be more than happy to see you rise through the ranks.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: DOLE lists “equal work opportunities for all” as the first basic right of an employee. It says: “The State shall protect labor, promote full employment, provide equal work opportunity regardless of gender, race, or creed; and regulate relations between employees and employers.”
Republic Act (RA) No 10911, or the anti-age discrimination law, also assures that age will not be a hindrance to one’s employment, promotion or right to equal compensation.
YOU WILL NEVER FEEL THREATENED AT WORK.
WHAT IT MEANS: No harassment or abuse in any form will be tolerated at work. No matter how high-ranking the offender is, he or she will be sanctioned, even removed from work, when proven guilty.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: As stipulated under Section 11 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution, “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
While Republic Act No. 10647 addresses acts of bullying in schools, a law which does the same in the workplace is still underway. House Bill No. 815 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2016 identifies the use of disrespectful and foul language, cyberbullying, and spreading rumors as examples of “office bullying.”
YOUR MANAGERS MUST LISTEN TO YOU, AND TREAT YOU FAIRLY.
WHAT IT MEANS: A fair workplace is what we are after. Ignoring employees’ concerns and favoritism will be sanctioned.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Again, this in line with the state policy (Article II, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution) that safeguards full respect for human rights and dignity. Access to equal work opportunities is a primary right as an employee regardless of gender, race, age, or creed.
The State, moreover, also promises in Section 14 to provide a safe work environment for women, enhancing their welfare and helping them realize their full potential. Republic Act 6725 further upholds their right and deems it criminal “for any employer to discriminate against any woman employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment solely on account of her sex.”
YOU WILL NEVER BE SUBJECT TO RACISM.
WHAT IT MEANS: To protect you from racism and other forms of discrimination, the company promises to only sign voice contracts wherein we can end calls if the customer proves to be a bigot.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Again, Section 11 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution articulates that “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
The Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (or House Bill 267) and Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014 (or Senate Bill 2122), when enacted into laws, will further protect the rights of those who are traditionally considered the minority such as the LGBTQ or ethnic groups.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO HIDE WHERE OR WHO YOU ARE.
WHAT IT MEANS: Rather than start the relationship with a customer with the intent to deceive, why not reveal the truth and inform the customer that you’re calling from the Philippines? You should be proud of who you are, and what country or city you’re working from. Instantly disarm the customer, be confident in your skills, and make your chances of serving the customer exceptionally that much stronger.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Any effort in hiding one’s location is deceptive in nature. According to the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394), a seller or supplier who misrepresents an affiliation that he or she does not have constitutes to a deceptive sales practice. It’s also deceptive for the agent to say that the “service is available to the consumer for a reason that is different from the fact.” Besides… when an agent provides great customer service, his or her nationality shouldn’t be an issue, right?
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT.
WHAT IT MEANS: Health is integral to your happiness and work performance. That is why in addition to basic HMO, we will provide programs that get at the root of how sickness or injury prevents you from being stable economically.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Section 15 of Article II makes it clear that “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”
Furthermore, DOLE also prescribes “safe working conditions” as one of the 10 basic rights of employees, and this includes “on-the-job protection against injury, sickness or death through safe and healthful working conditions.”
YOU SHOULD BE WORKING WITH FRIENDS.
WHAT IT MEANS: We’d like you to refer your friends to work with us, but this also means that we’ll provide you with a warm environment where people respect one another.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: According to the Labor Code of the Philippines (Presidential Decree No. 442 of 1974) Title VI, Article 258, it is considered an unfair labor practice if employees cannot “deal with each other in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect.” Disrupting industrial peace and preventing the promotion of healthy and stable labor-management relations are violations of the labor code.
In addition, this also calls for the reiteration of one’s constitutional right to dignity and a healthy respect for human rights.
NEITHER MANAGEMENT NOR YOU SHALL VIOLATE THESE RIGHTS.
WHAT IT MEANS: Everyone in the company, from the CEO down to the entry-level agent, is entitled to these rights. However, they are also expected to observe them.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Under Section 10 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.” It is only just that people receive what is due to them, and also fulfill their societal roles. While a company (which is a business entity) does not have the same power and authority as the state, it’s only right and fair for the organization to protect the rights of its employees and promote their welfare.
Book VI, Title I of the Philippine Labor Code emphasizes that an employee may be terminated for disobedience, misconduct, neglect of duties, fraud, and committing a crime.
The Labor Code articulates that “unfair labor practices are not only violations of civil rights… but are also criminal offenses against the State,” and will thus be prosecuted and punished accordingly (Art. 258).
But strengthening and celebrating these laws, not mere obedience, is what the Agent Bill of Rights or ABOR stands upon. Like Owen, a fair trade call center strives to improve the quality of employees’ lives. And, the protection of their rights has become an essential part of the company agenda.