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Villanueva backs BPO workers’ call for work-from-home extension

Senator Joel Villanueva has joined calls for the work-from-home scheme to be extended, urging the government to "temporarily withdraw its ultimatum" to BPO firms to halt remote work due to rising fuel prices.

Villanueva, Senate labor and employment committee chairman, said the “rising transport cost is a new development,” which should prompt the government to extend its March 31 deadline for BPOs to terminate remote work.

These companies would have to require their entire workforce to return to office by April 1 as the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) thumbed down requests to extend remote work arrangements.

“I believe that the rise in gas prices is exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which makes the appeal to extend the deadline a very reasonable one,” Villanueva said in a statement.

Villanueva said forcing BPO employees to commute to work would mean that "money to put food on the table will now be spent at the gas pump."

“If government is scrambling to soften the pain of surging oil prices for many sectors like drivers and farmers, then 1.3 million BPO workers should be entitled to the same mitigation,” he said.

“They just want to be allowed to continue working from home. It is a mitigation measure that will not cost the government anything,” he added.

According to projections provided on Saturday by Unioil Petroleum Philippines, motorists should expect another round of substantial rise in pump prices in the coming week, which could mark the 11th consecutive week of price increases.

Villanueva expressed his disagreement with the government's claims that allowing call center staff to return to their offices will bring a much-needed economic boost to local micro, small, and medium businesses.

“Bakit hindi ba nila ginagastos nang buo ang sweldo nila kahit nasa bahay sila nagtratrabaho? Pareho lang nagagamit ang sweldo nasa opisina man o nasa bahay,” he said.

(Are they not spending their full salary even when they are working at home? The salary can be used both in the office and at home.)

“The location of their workstation has no bearing on their spending habits or the level of their savings,” he said.

Villanueva also supported the call of the industry to push back the deadline to return to onsite work until the lifting of the state of calamity.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the state of calamity in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic until September 12, 2022. — VBL, GMA News