Saturday, April 10, 2010

Business Process Outsourcing – The Other side of the white-collar

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) was born with capitalism as a consequence of the
uncontrolled competition between capitalists, something inherent to this system. It is a means of increasing the exploitation of the whole working class both in the West and East with sole ambition of increasing profits for capitalist entrepreneurs!
The two headed beast Outsourcing has caused the destruction of thousands of jobs in the Western countries. In a few decades entire industrial branches have been almost entirely transferred to countries with much lower manpower costs. Corporations view it as an opportunity to lower costs while widening markets.

The effects of outsourcing don’t only hit those who lose their jobs in the western countries. It is the whole of the world waged people which is subjected to the pressure of the insane, competitive race between capitalist nations and to the blackmail of outsourcing, both in the country of departure and in the relocated industry. In reality, this has resulted in exploitation of developing nations and reducing

labor standards on a global scale. What illustrates the reality of outsourcing is the ruthless competition that is forced on different parts of the working class at the international level.

The BPO industry -Shift from blue collar to white collar

It all started few decades ago in labor intensive low tech manufacturing fields like apparel industry. Now outsourcing is spreading to new categories of workers, white collar and skilled labor. Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a form of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider.

BPO is typically categorized into back office outsourcing - which includes internal business functions such IT, finance and accounting, and front office outsourcing - which includes customer-related services such as contact center services

The high-tech BPO industry – the tear drop of Sri Lankan youth

These multinational so called Advanced TechnologyCenters (ATCs) promise a challenging environmentat work due to strict delivery deadlines demanded by US, Europe and Middle-East clients. These companies bill anything above USD 150 per man day for a basic resource for IT services to US Clients, though only 10-15% is passed to the employees. The balance of expenses before earnings per share is incurred on maintaining a state-of-the-art Technology
infrastructure and remunerating higher management at US Standard - Salary, Benefits and Perks. The operational model demands at least 48 working hours (on the paper) per week, where project managers have strict guidelines to ensure employee productivity.

However, in reality most of the young employees (Mostly agebetween 22 to30) are frequently FORCED to work even more than TWENTY FOUR CONTINUOUS HOURS OF WORK without proper break or rest. The attitude towards employees has been disastrous in some cases; where in the past, hundreds of employees have been laid off within few weeks. Directly or indirectly forcing a permanent employee to resign at short notice from work has been a specialty area of these so called prestigious BPO companies for the last 5 years. In most of the cases the employees who attend the work in the morning are given their termination letter and asked to go home saying that the company has not met the expected profit margin for the financial quarter. However it is generally seen that the same company continue to recruit new employees from the very next day! They continue to apply various techniques to hire-at-will, and fire-at-will. Although the recruitment advertisements appearing Newspapers and web sites look very enticing, scant regard has been paid to the statutory requirements of employing persons in Sri Lanka. Some of the violations in these so called ATCs include manager-employee harassment and humiliation at work, getting signatures on official documents under force and duress, promotions and career success based on favoritism and acquaintance, and host of other violation of mandatory local statutory requirements.

Fascinating recruitment drives

The 10000+ IT and engineering related workforce in Sri Lanka of which 80% are below project
manager level, is hired from Universities in Sri Lanka.

These multinational giants conduct well organized recruitment drive and allocate a significant budget for this purpose. Sponsoring at Career Fairs, Career Days etc. are some of the techniques proven to be effective in attracting fresh graduates into the workforce. Most of them join with promises given by the recruitment division which ranges from working abroad, branded career start, corporate image, market leading remuneration etc.

Role stretching – More strain for employee and higher profit for company

Role Stretching is a practice of some of the US basedcompanies where an employee is encouraged to play the role of a senior person. The employee does not get any additional compensation or other benefits for this exercise, but they are expected to work even harder and
billed at a higher rate to the customers. The employee is given the expectation that, after playing the ’stretched’ role, they would be subject to an early promotion. But this is hardly the truth, but only an enticement to work harder. There are several other deceptive and crafty techniques to obtain higher productivity from an employee.

Exploiting the youth

The workforce predominantly consists of workers between ages 22-38 years with an average age of 30. Most of the workforce is from middle class families who have limited influence in society to expose or take legal action against violations committed by the more affluent comprador Management of these blue chip companies. Hence most of them silently suffer until they are tactfully drained out of their soul and spirit. Besides, any legal action against a multinational giant could deprive an employee of a respectable career, subsequently, due to possible retaliation by the Management.

Brain strokes – The silent killer

There have been a number of deaths reported within last few years, though there have been past reports of casualties who have survived strokes also known as ‘brain attacks’. High tech IT work itself involves considerable stress due to immaturity of technologies used and high expectation levels of customers When the management put extra pressure by cutting down the effort estimates and resources, the youth has no option but to work day and night continuously for prolonged periods. Some of unfortunate pay the ultimate price of their lives while most of others loose their social and family lives. Most companies operate like sweatshops. They don’t value people, and yes, they definitely don’t value the sentiments of people. True – This is a cut-throat competition world, but does it require people to behave as if they are the megalomaniac dictators?

Government must take actions

Out sourcing is one of the few aspects that may be befitted to developing countries. Since BPO companies are on the increase in Sri Lanka, it would be prudent for the statutory authorities of Sri Lanka to investigate and monitor the operation of BPO companies particularly the level of compliance to Shops and Offices Act and the Industrial Disputes Act.
It would also be useful for International Human Rights Organizations to monitor the level of treatment meted out to this white collar workers and devise a channel to listen to any stories and experiences that are worthy for investigation.

Enlightening the employees – the way to win over slavery

This article has been written in order to educate the plight of white collar workers in a typical BPO organization, so as to influence maintaining of checks and balances to ensure adherence to stringent statutory and Human Rights principles in treating Sri Lankan intellectual segment when selling knowledge services overseas. It is up to the ‘workers’ (regardless of blue collar or white collar) of the whole world to understand themselves as comrades in struggle and hold out their hands across the limits of sectors and frontiers. They need to make their disparate movements into a single struggle against capitalism and develop the consciousness that this struggle can come to fruition through the destruction of the capitalist system. This means the abolition of wage labor and of labour power as a commodity, which is the root of the proletariat’s slavery.


No comments: