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Following Tragic Fire in Philippines, CWA Calls on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon to Ensure Safety of Workers in Offshored Call Centers

Citing Companies’ Reliance on Offshored Call Center Jobs in the Philippines, CWA President Chris Shelton Seeks Answers and Assurances that Workers are “Employed in a Safe and Healthful Manner” Following Davao City Fire
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Washington, DC – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today released letters sent by CWA President Chris Shelton to the CEOs of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon seeking to ensure that workers in these companies’ offshored call centers in the Philippines and beyond are “employed in a safe and healthful manner.” The CWA letters come after a December 23 fire at a call center in Davao City, Philippines claimed the lives of 38 call center workers. While the investigation into the cause and liability of the Davao City fire is ongoing, the CWA letters note that “reports indicate that faulty sprinkler and alarm systems, along with dangerously designed fire escapes – including potentially serious violations of fire codes – were major contributors to this terrible loss of life.”

In light of the large numbers of call center jobs that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have offshored from the U.S. to the Philippines, the CWA letters urge these companies “to require extensive safety inspections in all of the offshore call centers that handle … calls, and to ensure that safety equipment and procedures meet international standards, even if above and beyond domestic laws. No worker, anywhere, should be employed in a center that does not properly provide for the protection of their life.”

The CWA letters also note “that the lax labor and safety regulations in the Philippines and other offshore call center destinations are among the reasons companies … choose to offshore their work,” while condemning “offshoring as a means to avoid corporate responsibility for the safety of workers.” CWA, which believes that the offshoring trend has harmed American communities, workers, and consumers, also urges the companies to “take all steps necessary to bring work back to the U.S.” CWA is a strong supporter of federal call center legislation that would add more accountability and transparency to offshoring and would make U.S. companies that off-shore their call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.

About CWA’s ongoing solidarity efforts with call center workers in the Philippines

The CWA letters are the latest in CWA’s ongoing solidarity efforts with international call center workers. In the Philippines, CWA has a history of working with the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), an organization of call center workers, and the labor support organization EILER, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, to learn about the call center industry in the Philippines, to better understand working conditions for call center employees, and to support worker efforts to improve their conditions through organizing and collective bargaining.

BIEN members taking Verizon calls in the Philippines supported U.S.-based Verizon workers during the 2016 strike, holding pickets and workplace actions to protest Verizon’s failure to reach an agreement with CWA as well as the failures by their own employers to properly pay the overtime they were forced to work due to the increased call volume during the strike. Since the 2016 strike, CWA has had regular monthly calls and exchanges with BIEN and has made a contribution to their organizing fund to support ongoing efforts to build their organization.

Read the letters from CWA President Shelton to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon below:

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