Barely a week before millions of women around the world pour out into the streets for the #WomenStrike uprising on International Women’s Day (March 8), call center agents in Manila’s business district of Makati took time out to rise with the GABRIELA Women’s Alliance to demand the protection of women workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
“As the IT-BPO sector has claimed generating 1.2 million jobs and will outperform overseas remittances as the top dollar earner for the country, we note the increasing reports of workplace conditions and policies that put women workers at a disadvantage. GABRIELA encourages our women BPO rank-and-file to organize themselves to protect their rights and welfare,” GABRIELA vice-chair Gert Libang said.
The Unified Employees of the Alorica (UEA) led the choreographed swaggers in the early morning light to the rhythm of the One Billion Rising disco beats at the Makati avenue lined with BPO offices.
After the dance, the employees lit candles in memory of their colleague Eleonor Gonzales, a young breadwinner who was found dead on a street and divested of her belongings some time after she left her rented place to report for work. Sarah Prestoza, UEA president, said that female BPO workers are vulnerable to risks of muggings and violence because they were often passed over for priority schedules for safer hours. Women are often left to their own devices trying to protect themselves in the streets at unsafe hours when they need to report for work or leave office.
Libang added that GABRIELA is helping BPO workers become aware of their rights against workplace violence and unfair practices. She said that her office has been approached by some women who want help in filing cases of illegal dismissals after they were terminated from their contracts once their supervisors discover they become pregnant.
GABRIELA announced that thousands of women workers are joining the #WomenStrike rallies on March 8 timed with other protests abroad, to make a unified call for governments to stop neoliberal exploitation of women, job contracting, low wages, and sexual violence especially in export processing zones and joint venture investment projects. #