Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III (left) and undersecretary Claro Arellano (right).
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Following the signing of a new accord with the United Arab Emirates that gives greater protection to Filipino migrant workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has announced the resumption of deployment of household service workers to UAE beginning March 31, 2021.
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III hailed the signing of the agreement as a milestone in the Duterte administration’s efforts to further protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been the target of abuse in recent months, particularly amidst the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic.
Based on records, the Philippines stopped sending household service workers to UAE in 2014 after various complaints of abuse were reported against OFWs working in the Emirates.
According to Philippine delegation head Undersecretary Claro Arellano, the new deployment will now be covered by a Unified Employment Contract with provisions similar to the standard employment contract being used in Kuwait. The contract provides stringent measures to protect Filipino household workers pursuant to the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Under the unified contract, both the employer and the Foreign Recruitment Agencies, and the Philippine Recruitment Agencies are bound by joint liability should anything happen to the Filipino workers.
The four-party contract, which becomes an addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding on Labor Cooperation with Annex Protocol on Domestic Workers incorporates the President’s instructions for specific provisions to ensure the safety and the well-being of household workers as follows:
· The right of the domestic worker to take at least eight (8) continuous hours of sleep every night;
· The right of the domestic worker to take a break that is paid, outside the residence of the employer at least one (1) full day every week;
· The right of the domestic worker to keep his/her passport or identification documents and the employer is not allowed to hold them;
· The employer shall allow the domestic worker to have and use cellular phones and other communication devices and the employer is prohibited from confiscating them;
· Opening of bank account under the name of the domestic worker for payment of salary; and
· Allowing the domestic workers to cook her or his own food.
The agreement was signed during the two-day Joint Committee Meeting between UAE and the Philippines held in Manila with Saif Ahmed Alsuwaidi, undersecretary of Human Resources and Emiratisation representing the UAE.
Another significant achievement in the meeting is the agreement on the conversion of tourist/visit visa to working visa which, as agreed, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) will be notified when a visit visa is converted to employment visa for a Filipino domestic worker.
The Philippines reiterated its position to deploy the workers through the legal channel. Therefore, the conversion of tourist visas to working visas is not recommended since this may lead to illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons. (AI/MTVN)