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Jamaican Union Urges BPO Workers to Circle the Wagons as AI Approaches

Jamaican union leadership is sounding the alarm against the arrival of AI, fearing massive job losses and urging BPO workers to unite against the risks posed by the technology.

Jamaican union leader John Levy made the call in an interview with The Jamaica Gleaner, claiming that the vast majority of BPOs do not have “a support mechanism” in place, apparently referring to the lack of compensations such as severance pay.

Levy is the general secretary of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE). An affiliate of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), UCASE has approximately 10,000 members, primarily in the banking, insurance, telecommunications and education industries.

UCASE has been described as a strong force in the Jamaican labor movement. The union launched a strike at the Bank of Jamaica back in 2008, which resulted in a large rise in workers’ salaries.

Most of the time, UCASE negotiates with employers to establish the terms and conditions of employment, such as salaries, working hours and benefits.

The majority of Jamaican BPO personnel are contract workers who may be fired at any time. If their employers decide not to extend their contracts, they are terminated, according to Levy.

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Some players in the BPO industry dispute Levy’s argument. Gloria Henry, a former GSAJ president, told the news portal that “BPO workers in the country are well paid and well cared for; they may not need union representation.”

AI has become a hotly debated topic in the corridors of the Jamaican BPO industry. Elsewhere in the world, the technology is already being used to automate some BPO tasks, such as customer service and data entry.

However, analysts believe that AI could also be used to develop new BPO products and services, potentially leading to the creation of new jobs.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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