by Colin Hyde
I think the moment you sign up to work for a BPO you should be told, if you don’t know already, that you aren’t working for Americans on holiday, you are working for Americans at work. Effectively, the BPO workplace is on half Belizean soil, half American soil. We have laws, good laws to protect workers, and más que todo workers must get the best protection possible; however, we must keep in mind that BPO job da noh typical Belizean job.
We all heard the talk when Hurricane Lisa was approaching, that a BPO had called on call center agents to report to work as normal, because “there are no government mandates at this time to close business.”
Of course, hurricanes are no play story. If you’re not prepared, you will get lik. Hmm, where Belize City is concerned, Lisa looked very much like it would pass over like wahn lee breeze. If she hadn’t drifted north, the morning after it hit, many in Belize City would have been asking what all that fuss was about. And businesses that closed early would have been expressing regret about what they could have made. Don’t say it’s only money. Try living in a city and see how you can procure food without it. It’s no lie when they say, city without pity.
The Amandala reported the PM saying he wasn’t too happy about some businesses pressuring their workers to report; NEMO Coordinator Shelton Defour saying that “the law stipulates employers must release their employees to go and seek safety—go and look after their family and get out of harm’s way”; and attorney OJ Elrington saying, our labor laws need “serious review”, that under Belize’s current laws, employers are not required to give employees time off during times of natural disasters, but they also cannot force employees to show up for work if they feel it puts their safety in peril.
Very sensibly, yes, yes, we take this story back to 2016, and if my recollection is right, Minister Godwin was the one at the helm, the one responsible for BPOs when our labor laws/norms ran a little contrary to the expectations of BPO owners/managers. The Amandala reported a social media complaint by a Ready Call employee, about a memo from the company which said: “Effective January 1st, 2017 you will be held accountable to report to work on Public and Bank Holidays, if you are scheduled to work. Ready Call Center has an obligation to deliver to the client without exception, even on holidays.”
There’s more. The Amandala said the memo said: “The success of this call center lies in ensuring that you are fully aware of the desired results and of what is expected. Our main objective is to ensure that you are present for work every day for all days scheduled.” And the memo warned employees: “Failure to adhere to your schedule may result in your dismissal.”
The Amandala said Ms. Aida Reyes at the Labor Department said the employees at the BPO didn’t have to sign on the dotted line, but if they have a prior agreement, employees can work on holidays.
The Labor Department’s intervention didn’t soothe the employees who weren’t happy with the situation. The Amandala said there was “growing despair” in the ranks of employees. One of them told Amandala: “The worst part of it is that they are forcing you to work on holidays once scheduled, no matter if you live in the city, on a highway, or in a remote village where buses do not run. On those days, they state they will send a bus for you, even if you live in Cayo or Orange Walk, so you have no excuse to not attend work on a holiday.” The said employee expressed concern about the payments they would receive for work on holidays, because that wasn’t specified in the memo, and that the employees felt defenseless because they didn’t have a union.
I’ve heard talk about unionizing BPOs. I can be corrected; I am always ready to learn, always ready to improve my truth, but where I’m at right now, I don’t understand any of that kind of talk. Of course, I understand the workers’ feelings. But I think there are some things we have to understand about this work. Whoa there, BPO da American job!
If consolation is good, BPO workers who think they have it tough might feel better to learn that they are not alone. People in agriculture know the feeling. During the planting and harvesting cycles, there’s no such thing as a day off for workers on a farm that produces 3 and 4 month crops. When fish di bite or lobster di run, fishaman noh noa dat da Sunday! If you need your Sunday off, you need to try and get a job in the public service, but not as police or nurse. Of course, workers need special remuneration for work on special days. Of course, the BPO has to sit down with the authorities when they are drawing up their contracts. Employees, your job is to read the terms before you sign on.
It goes even more so for the police
Yaa, I stand with issuing red cards to footballers who aren’t humble before referees, and I said it didn’t matter what a player thinks about the quality of job the man in the middle is doing. If Belize had sufficient sports programs led by competent persons who emphasize discipline, we would have a far better country.
I’m big with respecting referees, and I’m also big with a “corrective” for those of us who feel like we and the police da one. It’s about the uniform. If you KNOW that a police officer is the most corrupt person on the planet, a chaansi, good-for-nothing bully boy, you still have to respect that uniform.
Long years ago, one of my relatives called a police officer a “bloody ass”. And he went to court and won. I don’t know the full details of this story. I don’t know if the officer embarrassed him in front of his girl. Hmm, I don’t believe the magistrate for that case was Mr. Balderamos. I think Bala would have told him, yu know yu daam right, that policeman is a jackass, or did a jackass thing, but you need to learn how to speak to a man in our uniform. Now choose: fine or confine?
I like the police of the old days. One of my uncles pointed a rifle at a man who was a nuisance to our yard; the man fell on his knees before him and begged for mercy; and the police fell on my uncle, took away his rifle, and carted him off to Queen Street, where they scolded the daylights out of him. Yap, I like the police of the old days. I believe in that whip Tablada and Cassasola carried. Of course, I wouldn’t have liked the idea of my relative getting a caning. But a single hard cut to the buttocks for his cheek would have been good for both him and our country.
Belize’s leadership is weak. How come so many clips are about with people talking disrespectfully to the police? That’s because our leadership is soft pops. Our leadership reminds me of teachers who want to be “loved”. The last thing on a teacher’s mind should be about being loved. If your students love you AFTER you have made them learn their lessons, AFTER you have ensured complete discipline in your class, well then bully, it’s nice to be loved. Desperation to be “liked” is weak.
I saw the clip with the lieutenant. You know there are many Belizeans who belong in the movies. I am sure Ms. Kim Vasquez can use that guy in one of her plays. I will say in one area I believe the brother showed a lot of restraint. It’s rare that a police officer can whip a BDF, so kudos to our BDF brother for leaving it to talk. But I don’t buy his tirade. I want him to go to court, plead guilty, and pay his fine. And the next time he has a run-in with the police, I want him to tell them, unu bohgaz, if da neva fu unu unifaam…