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Labour official attacks plan to ban Filipina maids

ABU DHABI // The Philippine government should resist the call to protect maids from maltreatment by preventing them from seeking work in the Middle East, a Filipino labour official in Abu Dhabi said.

Instead, the government should provide domestic workers with information they can use at mandatory pre-departure briefings, said Nasser Munder, the labour attaché in Abu Dhabi.

“Many of them are attending the seminar just to comply with the requirements for overseas employment.

“What if we conduct an exam to check their level of preparedness?” he said.

He also proposed a “massive information drive” in the Philippines to ensure that Filipinos are sent abroad by licensed agencies accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an agency of the department of labour and employment, which promotes and monitors overseas employment.

Late last year, three politicians from the Philippines called on their government to stop sending household workers to the Middle East after witnessing first-hand the plight of domestic workers in some cities within the region.

Luz Ilagan, who represents the women’s group Gabriela in Congress, and congressmen Carlos Padilla and Rufus Rodriguez, investigated cases of illegal recruitment and visited Filipinas in shelters in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in November.

Their fact-finding trip also included visits to women who sought refuge in embassies and consulates in Amman, Jeddah and Riyadh. They interviewed at least 400 women who fled their employers’ homes after complaining of lack of food and sleep, maltreatment, overwork and not being paid.

In Dubai, they were confronted with three cases of sex trafficking. The women told them that they were supposed to be domestic helpers but ended up in a brothel.

“Filipinas are generally vulnerable to abuse and are willing to gamble when recruited to work overseas,” Mrs Ilagan told The National in November. “We have to educate women to be more careful.”

The three politicians are members of the committee on overseas workers affairs and the regional ban on domestic workers is one of the recommendations cited in their committee report which will be submitted to Congress. They also called for the Philippine government to ban employers cited for abuse and for the POEA to punish agencies involved in illegal recruitment.

But Mr Munder said employers were not to blame for about 60 to 70 per cent of maids’ complaints at the labour-office shelter in Abu Dhabi. At the moment, there are about 170 women in the shelter, after 23 were sent home recently, he said.

“Allegations of maltreatment such as physical abuse are isolated,” Mr Munder said.

“The majority are not prepared to work in the Middle East. They find it hard to deal with homesickness, the language barrier and culture shock.”

On maids’ allegations of lack of food or sleep and unpaid salaries, he said most of these could be resolved with the employers. “But the housemaids are usually adamant to go home,” he said. “Some quarrel with their co-workers and later decide to leave their employers.”

Ellene Sana, the executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) in Quezon City in the Philippines, said a ban did not guarantee that Filipina migrants would stay away from the Middle East.

“What will stop migrants from coming up with other job categories or contracts for jobs other than domestic work?” she said.

“Some of them already do this in order to circumvent the new policies for household service workers.

“The CMA shares the concern of our legislators to stop abuses against women migrant domestic workers,” she said. “But we do not agree that a deployment ban at this time will be able to address the deplorable living and working conditions of our women migrant workers in the Middle East and the GCC,” Ms Sana said.

There are about 30,000 documented housemaids in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, and 18,000 in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ruwais, according to Philippine labour officials.

A Filipina housemaid in Dubai, Emma Tagboy, 29, said: “It is good that our government is doing something to protect us. But what will my compatriots do in the Philippines? There are not enough jobs there.”

Every month, she sends 15,000 pesos (Dh1,150) to her parents who take care of her 16-month-old baby boy in Pagadian City in southern Philippines.

Her Canadian employer in Dubai gives her time off every Thursday afternoon and allows her to return to their home on Saturday morning to resume her household duties.

“I’m so lucky,” she said. “They told me that I’m just human and that I need to strike a balance between work and life.”

Ms Tagboy was hired two years ago after her former employer’s family, also Canadian, moved to France. “I used to earn $200 (Dh735) which was the minimum monthly wage then,” he said. “When the [Philippine] government increased it to $400, they paid me that amount and I also got a salary increase every year.”

In December 2006, the Philippines government set a $400 monthly minimum wage for domestic workers worldwide.

The remittances of Filipino migrants have been a major contributor to the country’s economy.

In total, $15.8 billion was remitted by overseas Filipino workers worldwide in the first 11 months of 2009, up 5.1 per cent from the $15.02 billion recorded in the same period in 2008, according to the Philippine central bank.

By Ramona Ruiz

Filed under: OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, Sorsogon News Updates,

Taiwan is inviting more overseas Filipino workers

Taiwan is inviting more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to apply for a job there, citing benefits it has laid out for OFWs, as it urged the Philippines to sign a Free Trade Agreement that would help increase trade and investments between the two neighbors.

“OFWs contribute a lot to the Taiwanese economy and we hope that more OFWs can work in Taiwan,” Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Ambassador to the Philippines Donald Lee said.

He said Taiwan “provides OFWs equal rights and the same treatment as a local Taiwanese employee receives, including medical insurance coverage.”

“We have also implemented a new direct hiring program which makes it easier for OFWs who want to work in Taiwan. They don’t need to go through manpower agencies and middlemen who sometimes take advantage of them and charge them higher fees. This way, more OFWs are encouraged to make a living in Taiwan, where equal opportunities abound for them,” he said.

It will be recalled that in June last year, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) held a direct hiring program in key cities in Taiwan with the support of Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs (CLA).

“MECO has been aggressively marketing the special hiring facility among Taiwanese employers and skilled workers. The facility, also known as ‘direct hiring’ and ‘name hiring,’ allows Taiwanese employers to recruit Filipino workers without going through manpower agencies and recruitment firms,” said Antonio Basilio, MECO resident representative and managing director.

There are currently about 100,000 OFWS in Taiwan, each earning around P25,000 per month. Lee said OFWs in Taiwan remit around US$600 million to the Philippines every year.
Many OFWs in Taiwan were laid off due to the global economic crisis last year. However, most of the OFWs in had been re-hired due to robust demand for workers in manufacturing, particularly in the electronics sector.

Lee also said the Philippines should consider signing an FTA with Taiwan, stressing the impact it will have if the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is signed between Taiwan and mainland China.

“The Philippines should seriously consider signing an FTA with Taiwan,” Lee said. “If the Philippines does not take swift action, Taiwan locators that should have settled in the Philippines would turn to mainland China due to the ECFA’s magnetized effect.”

“Worse, many OFWs in Taiwan will soon be out of jobs as Taiwan factories may move to mainland China after the implementation of the ECFA,” he added.

Lee said Taiwan had just concluded the first round of talks with China on the ECFA, which is expected to “boost the normalization of the cross-Strait economic trade ties that will allow Taiwan to fit in to the international trade arena.”

“If Taiwan and the Philippines will sign an FTA, we foresee great strides in the cooperation of trade and investment, agriculture, labor, etc. with more Filipino workers coming to Taiwan, and more Taiwan investments flowing to the Philippines as well. Above all, we want to protect the working opportunities of OFWs in Taiwan,” Lee said.

“We promise to do more to engage in cooperation with the Philippines, especially in humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Taiwan is the 18th largest trading economy and has the fourth largest foreign reserve in the world. It is a major investor in the Philippines as well as in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has an FTA with China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand, all of which were in effect since January 1, 2010. The Philippines is a member of the 10-nation regional bloc.


Filed under: OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, ,

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