Jamaica’s BPO sector will return stronger, says Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he is confident the measures that have been implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector will make the industry stronger and make Jamaica the location of choice.

The Prime Minister, who was speaking at a virtual press conference on Monday (May 4), at the Office of the Prime Minister Media Centre in Kingston, said he met with leaders in the BPO industry and they now understand the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to them.

“I’m confident that the measures we have put in place and the regular inspections that we’re now doing, which are going to be at a much higher level, will place the industry on a strong footing post-COVID to be a destination for business process outsourcing business and to make Jamaica a robust and solid destination for that industry,” he said.

Holness added “I think they understand that a lot rests on their management of the facilities and the faithful implementation of the standards. I think they have a great deal of work to do in educating their staff,” he said, adding that several of them have moved their operations offsite to a work-from-home arrangement, which is growing.

He pointed out that the BPO sector is a very important foreign exchange earner for Jamaica, and the industry has to be managed very carefully.

“It employs 40,000 Jamaicans; it is the third largest employer in the country and the third largest foreign exchange earner for us as well.”

– Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness

So, this is not an industry that we can see destroyed,” Holness emphasised.

He said the Task Force, which has been established and is chaired by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, has done an excellent job in bringing together the stakeholders and the management.

“All the supervisory agencies, the regulatory agencies, including the health inspection team from the Ministry of Health, they are now conducting inspections of the BPOs right across Jamaica. They have sent me a brief report. I will deliver that report in Parliament…” Holness said.

The Alorica call centre in Portmore accounted for more than half of Jamaica’s COVID cases.

Noting that the outbreak at the Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine, has accounted for more than 64 per cent of the 471 cases in Jamaica, the Prime Minister said while it has been largely contained, it could have happened in any high-concentration, closed-environment employment situation.

“The important lesson is for us to put in place the strict measures,” he emphasised.

Since last month’s COVID-19 outbreak at Alorica, Government has moved to implement a number of measures that include a 14-day closure of all BPO facilities, barring those that were given exemptions; installation and maintenance of handwashing stations or other hand-sanitising equipment at the entrance of the business premises; lunch rooms and recreation areas and the provision of individual headset for all workers.

Sanitisation of all workstations and equipment before each work shift, temperature checks, physical distance markers in the offices and in all recreational spaces, as well as an isolation area for the temporary holding of a person who becomes symptomatic while on the business premises, were also among the new measures.

The Task Force also implemented additional measures, which include new inspection and audit protocols; a self-inspection checklist which has been signed off by all agencies and departments, the submission of daily reports by all BPO operators to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the installation of closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) at all BPO facilities.