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    • Ms. Edwards said, “What has happened is very unfortunate.  It goes without saying that the health of employees and the wellbeing of our citizens is of utmost importance and as such we must commend the efforts made so far by those BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) operators that implemented extensive social distancing and other measures.
    • She said, “Now more than ever, during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reliant on remote assistance to maintain business operations in Jamaica and the world
    • e existence of a strong association in the form of the GSAJ is critical in facilitating this dialogue and ensuring all members are up to date with government guidelines, therefore, we will continue to support them and other stakeholders as we move forward.”

    JAMPRO’s President, Diane Edwards, has said the Agency supports the extensive effort made by the GSAJ (Global Services Association of Jamaica), formally BPIAJ (Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica) on their work with operators in the industry to protect employees in the outsourcing sector and to prevent major long-term disturbances in services for the industry due to COVID-19. Ms. Edwards made the comments after the recent announcement of the 2-week shutdown of the sector (excluding companies that provide essential services), as a result of a recent workplace cluster outbreak of COVID-19.

    Ms. Edwards said, “What has happened is very unfortunate.  It goes without saying that the health of employees and the wellbeing of our citizens is of utmost importance and as such we must commend the efforts made so far by those BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) operators that implemented extensive social distancing and other measures. What we must do now is work with industry stakeholders such as the GSAJ.  The BPO industry is of vital importance to Jamaica, delivering essential services locally and internationally to banks, healthcare, utilities and legal operations. We are encouraged by the creation of the GSAJ’s Health and Wellness Guidelines Against COVID-19 drafted specifically for BPO operations. This will curb further spread of COVID-19 as we look towards persons returning to work in the medium term, providing support for their family and contributing to the recovery of the Jamaican economy.”

    The Outsourcing industry in Jamaica has over 60 companies that currently employs over 40,000 people who work in sectors like Healthcare, Finance, Logistics, Telecommunications, Information Technology, and provide overall customer service. The importance of the BPO sector is undeniable, bringing in over USD$700 million to Jamaica’s economy in 2019, while servicing millions of customers.  For example, BPO employees provide essential services for industries such as logistics, offering support in the transportation of goods internationally. The challenge therefore is to protect the health of all Jamaican citizens while maintaining limited operations; with all the extensive health measures implemented to ensure future viability of the BPO industry in Jamaica.   

    She said that many of these BPO employees are the main earners in their homes and losing their income during these times will have far reaching impact. It is critical to safeguard the health of employees by adhering to all the guidelines of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The implementation of these guidelines is also important to ensure the industry remains stable, as major disruption would have a significant impact on other sectors in Jamaica and would leave many more persons unemployed.

    She said, “Now more than ever, during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reliant on remote assistance to maintain business operations in Jamaica and the world. Banks, telecommunications, utilities; they all rely on the BPO industry. The health of these persons is paramount, and I think the BPO service providers would agree with me; a balance must be maintained to first keep Jamaicans safe, and then to maintain a stable industry.”

    GSAJ committed to protecting staff 

    The President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), Ms. Gloria Henry, said that she agreed with Ms. Edwards and the government’s position, and she advised that several BPO companies in Jamaica had executed preventative measures before the crisis. She said the compulsory wearing of masks and temperature checks were already implemented, and the GSAJ has asked BPO staff members to anonymously advise the association if their employers were not following the guidelines set by the GSAJ to support compliance monitoring.

    Ms. Henry also said that the GSAJ’s membership were taking measures seriously, by making efforts to facilitate social distancing and work from home arrangements, amidst many challenges. She said, “To date approximately 12,000 persons are working at home. There have been challenges for widespread implementation, which includes, security issues, poor or no Internet service in area of residence, inadequate domestic arrangements for the worker or, most importantly, no client approval.”

    Going forward, Ms. Henry said the association will be intensifying its activities to protect the industry and its employees, as it is committed to the health and safety of employees. She said, “We are committed to fast and effective actions to guide our members in the coming weeks and to work with the agencies of government to help them maintain a safe workplace.  We are uncompromising in regards to workers’ safety”

    The next step for Outsourcing during COVID-19

    Diane Edwards said moving forward, the Jamaican government and its agencies including JAMPRO, the GSAJ and Outsourcing companies will be working closely to ensure that standards are maintained. She said, “The companies have been very responsive, and the key lesson learned is that flexibility and open transparent dialogue has allowed the sector to address issues quickly with the Government. The existence of a strong association in the form of the GSAJ is critical in facilitating this dialogue and ensuring all members are up to date with government guidelines, therefore, we will continue to support them and other stakeholders as we move forward.”

    The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO)’s mission is to drive economic development through growth in investment and export. JAMPRO is an Agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

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