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Will U.S. call center bill affect jobs in Costa Rica?

A bill that would punish U.S. companies for outsourcing their customer service call centers abroad should not concern local workers, the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) said in a news release.

Chamber leaders said that the approval of the proposed bill would not have an impact on the local workforce in the short term, and asked the population “not to be alarmed.”

Democratic and Republican Senators submitted the “US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act” on March 2. The bill’s main goal is to bring jobs back to the United States; groups such as the Communications Workers of America already voiced their public support for the initiative.

AMCHAM says the bill would only regulate call centers focused on customer service.

“These should not be mistaken for the value-added services centers that now predominate in Costa Rica, and which would not be regulated by this bill,” the chamber’s statement said.

Chamber President Dennis Whitelaw asked that people to remain calm and continue doing their work in the most professional way possible.

“We don’t think this bill would affect contact centers located in Costa Rica in the short term,” he said.

The chamber’s statement also noted that relocating call center operations back to the United States would involve high costs in infrastructure and in hiring new staff.

Caution

Jorge Sequeira, the General Director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), told The Tico Times in a written response that because the defense of local jobs is a major political issue in the United States right now, the approach of a new Senate election might lead politicans to use this issue in order to win votes.

Sequeira said that CINDE will keep monitoring all similar proposals, but that “people should be aware that all these proposals must go through a series of steps before its final approval.”

Companies from Costa Rica’s services sector currently employ some 60,000 people, according to CINDE, but call centers represent only fraction of that. The agency does not have a precise figure of how many people work at contact centers, but 23 foreign companies offering such services are registered with CINDE.

Bill H.R. 4604

In its curent wording Bill H.R. 4604 requires the Secretary of Labor to maintain a publicly available list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas, and to make such companies ineligible for federal grants or taxpayer-guaranteed loans.

If approved, it would require call center agents to disclose their location at the beginning of the call, and would grant U.S. customers the right to request that their calls be transferred to a U.S.-based call center.

The bill has been submitted for approval several times since 2011. This time, it is back for discussion by Congress with the support of Democratic Senators Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill. In the House of Representatives, Republican David McKinley and Democrat Gene Green sponsored the bill.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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