By Henri Abenis-Macahilo
The Philippines will resume its deployment of household service workers (HSWs) to the UAE on April 01 after being suspended in 2014 as a result of the creation a unified contract by the UAE’s Ministry of Interior that prevented various embassies from verifying and attesting labour contracts.
The announcement was made official on Tuesday (Mar. 02) by the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) and Philippine Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) following a two-day Joint Committee Meeting in Manila on Mar. 01 and 02.
“Concluding a series of meetings held in the Philippines between a delegate from #MOHRE & senior Filipino officials, it was announced that starting April, the UAE will import domestic workers from the Philippines through the officially authorised channels in both countries,” the MOHRE announced on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano, who spearheaded the Philippine team said, the sending of Filipino workers to the Arab country will resume on Mar. 31.
“The measure will now be covered by a Unified Employment Contract (UEC) that provides stringent measures to protect Filipino HSWs pursuant to the directives of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Usec. Arellano said in a press statement.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of our counterparts,” Arellano said, noting that the same provisions in the UEC were in the standard employment contract being used in Kuwait.
The Philippine government reiterated its position in the deployment of overseas workers through the legal channel and discourages conversion of tourist visa to working visa as it may lead to illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons.
The UAE meanwhile, promised to provide a modified UEC that reflects the PH side proposed addendum in the next joint committee meeting as well as during the discussion by the Technical Working Group on the electronic system and linkage.
The UAE group in the joint committee meeting was headed by Saif Ahmed Al Suwaidi, undersecretary of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
Both sides agreed that the addendum be implemented for the immediate resumption of the deployment of domestic workers under manual process.
Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III hailed the agreement as a milestone in the government’s efforts to further protect Filipino overseas workers.
Migration experts also lauded both countries’ leadership in continuing to develop new ways to address labour-related issues in the Gulf.
Froilan Malit, Jr., migration specialist at Cambridge University and managing director of news portal and policy research Rights Corridor, commended the signing of the bilateral agreement, saying it shows exceptional progress in guaranteeing the protection of the rights of the Filipino domestic workers in the UAE.
“The bilateral agreement has both significant and practical values between states. For the Philippine government, it reflects strong commitment to address the vulnerabilities of Filipino domestic workers in the UAE, across the Gulf and in Asia and the strong commitment, responsibility and hard work not only of the president but also of the senior officials at the Department of Labour and Employment, DFA and diplomatic missions – our embassy, consulate and POLO-OWWA in the UAE,” said Mr. Malit in his media interview.
“For the UAE, the bilateral agreement is a great step in terms of recognising and embodying the rights for the Filipino workers and hopefully in the future, probably domestic workers, with their own legal system here in the UAE.”
“This bilateral labour agreement also inclined with their long term economic aim at creating more robust labour market governance in the field of domestic work,” he added.
Under the unified contract, both the employer and the Foreign Recruitment Agencies, and the Philippine Recruitment Agencies are bound by joint and solidary liability should anything happen to the Filipino workers.
The four-party contract, which becomes an addendum to the UAE-Philippines Memorandum of Understanding on Labour Cooperation with Annex Protocol on Domestic Workers, includes specific provisions to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino household workers. These are:
- 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 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.
Another provision in the agreement is the conversion of tourist/visit visa to working visa. As agreed during the JCM, POLO will be notified when a visit visa is converted to an employment visa for a Filipino domestic worker.
About the author: Henri Abenis-Macahilo is the UAE Bureau Chief of Philippine-based news portal, NewsLinePH. She writes articles for Rights Corridor as freelance contributor.