(B)eat (P)ollutants (O)ut: PM announces stringent measures for call centres

Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaking in Parliament Wednesday (April 15).

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced the implementation of stringent measures for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

This comes as 52 of Jamaica’s 143 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (as at Thursday) have been linked to the Alorica BPO operation in Portmore, St. Catherine. The Prime Minister informed that all BPOs have been closed in St Catherine, by virtue of the seven-day lockdown of the parish that came into effect on April 14.

“We are aware that the majority of BPO operators in St. Catherine have implemented guidelines, many of them their own guidelines or the guidelines of the BPO associations, and many of them have followed the guidelines and regulations of the Ministry of Health and Wellness,” Holness said as he addressed the sitting of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

He noted that the country has invested heavily in growing the BPO sector and will always be careful with how “we treat with the business”. Still, he said that members and stakeholders should understand that the government will take “the most extreme actions” if there is evidence that the stakeholders in the industry, including the employees, are “negligent, casual or belligerent in following the guidelines and orders of the government”.

Measures announced by the PM

  • Effective immediately until May 14, handwashing stations or other hand-sanitising equipment must be placed and maintained at the entrance of the business premises, lunchrooms and recreation areas.
  • All employee workstations and equipment must be sanitised before each work shift.
  • Effective April 21, each employee must be provided with individual headsets.
  • Temperature checks must be conducted on each employee, upon their arrival for work.
  • Physical distance markers must be in place so as to manage the distancing of persons at entry points to the business premises and in all recreational spaces.
  • Establishment of an isolation area for temporary holding of a person who becomes symptomatic while on the business premises.
  • “Every employee must wear a mask fitted to cover the nose and mouth while in the business operation area of the premises. The workstation of the employees must be situated in such a way that each employee is stationed at least six feet away from the station of other employees.
  • No more than 10 persons are permitted to be in a recreational room, meeting room or training room of the business at any one time.
  • Employees coming off a work shift must exit the business premises before the employees starting the next shift can enter.
  • Employees with flu-like illnesses and other respiratory symptoms will not be permitted to go to work.
  • Immediately on the operator becoming aware that a person at the business premises has tested positive for COVID-19, the business premises must be closed and the Ministry of Health and Wellness informed that the person has tested positive within the last 14 days.

The Prime Minister added that a daily report is to be sent to the Director-General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management for compliance checks.