Amazon extended its work-from-home policy into 2021 for corporate employees, but call center workers in the Philippines contracted by the company’s Ring subsidiary continue to work in person with increased risk of COVID-19 infection, as detailed in a report for NBC News by Olivia Solon and April Glaser.
Employees of Teleperformance — contracted by Ring in the Philippines — describe little to no support in making their workplace safer during the pandemic. The company is under increased scrutiny after photos of employees sleeping in its offices in Cebu City were released by the press. Solon and Glaser report that Teleperformance continues to downplay concerns even with new pressure to modify policies from worker organizations like BPO Industry Employees Network.
Per Ring’s policies, workers are not allowed to work from home to better maintain the security of customer data. This hasn’t created a safer workplace, according to the testimony of four workers Solon and Glaser interviewed for the report. Besides close contact with co-workers, they describe inadequate cleaning of shared, high-touch workspaces and inconsistent transportation to and from the call center as the most pressing concerns.
Employees took great risk to share their accounts, but meaningful changes seem distant given Ring’s stance on security and the high demand for call center labor in the Philippines. Solon and Glaser’s report is a reminder of the inequity experienced by workers critical to services offered by the largest American corporations. The personal touch expected by customers comes at a cost — and leaves workers with few options.