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TODAY NICARAGUA – A proposed bill in the U.S. threatens the operations of call centers from nations like Nicaragua, worrying employers and workers, according to a CNN Español report that says the bill could force companies that outsource customer service outside the United States to return to the U.S.

The bill – which has the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) – was presented last March 2 to the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) with cosponsors Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and in the House by Representatives, David McKinley (R-WV) and Gene Green (D-TX).

From the CWA newsletter on March 2, 2017:

“Today, the ‘U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act’ was introduced in both the House and Senate, to protect workers and consumers and to curb the off-shoring of American jobs.

The legislation requires that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking, offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S.-based center if preferred, and makes U.S. companies that off-shore their call center jobs ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.”

In addition, the bill proposes that U.S. companies that outsource their customer services in other countries may not receive certain federal subsidies or taxpayer-financed loans, CNN said.

Is this a real threat?

Could this be the future of call centers in Nicaragua? Image for illustrative purposes from www.fastcodesign.com

The Agencia de Promoción de las Inversiones de Nicaragua (ProNicaragua), for the end of 2015, says companies registered under the Zona Franca (Comisión Nacional de Zona Franca –  CNZF) regime employed 7,800 people; by the end of 2016, the number grew to 8,500.

In addition, between 2007 and 2016, the number of companies went from 17 to 42, serving mainly American and Canadian companies, in addition to European and Latin American businesses.

According to ProNicaragua, these companies generated more than US$100 million dollars in income to the country in 2015.

Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) president Álvaro Rodríguez, for example, told the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa last week that if this bill becomes a reality, the negative effect on the economy of his country would be very high. Rodríguez assured that they will do everything possible so that it is not approved. “We are going to support this so that it will not happen,” he said

In Costa Rica, a country with a high concentration of call centers, some 60,000 jobs are threatened by the U.S. move.

Sources: QCostarica; La Presna; CNN; CWA