Sunday, September 25, 2011

Domestic workers may be

Philippines to ban domestic worker supply

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Should the ban on the Filipino domestic helpers be imposed, the workers on vacation could be held up in Manila indefinitely, said a Philippines-based recruitment agency official currently visiting Kuwait. Speaking exclusively with the Kuwait Times, Miriam Mondragon, Vice President of the Philippine Association of Licensed Agency to Kuwait (Philack) said that the law in the Philippines stipulates that if a country does not comply with either of the three stipulations mentioned in the Philippine Migrant Act law, "there will be no excuses," adding everything including those that are already here in Kuwait but vacationing in Manila, could possibly be held up there. "That is according to our law and we cannot do anything about it if the law is imposed," she noted.

The Philippines recently announced its readiness to implement a law that bars domestic helpers in the Middle East including Kuwait and the UAE, citing Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers Act.

Mondragon said, Kuwait only partially complies with the RA 10022. "They are only qualified in semi and skilled workers but not in the domestic help sector," she stressed. Mondragon explained that Kuwait is signatory to the ILO's Geneva Convention, but have not ratified it yet (the law), making them unqualified to receive Filipino workers, "Kuwait and the Philippines should also sign a bilateral labor agreement, and it wasn't. Third, the requirement of labor law. It is present, but we demand that concerns of domestic workers be included. Domestic Labor Law is needed and as we know, they said it was already pending in their National Assembly. So the possibility of a ban is very obvious," she added.

Domestic helpers include housemaids, family drivers, family cooks, gardeners, personal nurses. Of the 160,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, 75,000 are engaged in domestic help jobs.

Kuwait and the Philippines have no existing bilateral labor agreement but have signed a so-called Mutual Labor Agreement or the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the two countries in 1991, "We do not share a bilateral labor agreement. It was a mutual agreement to provide Kuwait with the workforce needed right after the war in 1991," she recalled.

Mondragon expressed full supports for the new law that will benefit both the employers and workers. She expressed hope that Kuwait will be able to draft and subsequently enact the domestic labor law as soon as possible, "We are here to appeal and voice our concern on the matter. We do not want to lose our business with Kuwait. The Philippine government is not allowed to interfere in their domestic affairs because it is their internal issue. Our group is here to appeal for immediate action. Anyway, we are benefiting from the deployment of domestic workers. We came here on our own expense to personally appeal to their government to act accordingly. This is on the issue of hastening the passage of the domestic labor law which covers the full protection and welfare of our Household Service Workers. Without this, the law will be implemented and we are afraid it will come soon. The ball is in the hand of the Kuwaitis," she stressed.

Mondragon told Kuwait Times that the law could be possibly imposed in a matter of hours or days, "We do not know yet when but it will be soon. We do not know also the implications for both countries, but I think there will be repercussions. But I hope it will be minimal. What we see at the level of domestic helpers, those who are vacationing in the Philippines for example could be affected. Maybe they'll not be able to return to Kuwait anymore unless the Philippines clearly clarifies/defines the section [of the law] with regard to returning workers," she mentioned.

Should the ban be imposed it will drastically affect especially the domestic helper who are in a way earning money and helping their families out of working abroad. "We have approximately 30,000 domestic helpers entering Kuwait annually and we barely have one percent problem out of the total. So it means the huge percentage enjoys the good treatment at the hands of their employers. What is being capitalized as we all know, are some abuses, rape cases and maltreatment; these certainly matter. We care for our workers," she beamed.

Mondragon pointed out that the law provides equal protection for both the employers and workers, "There are problems committed by workers. But with the new law, it will be covered. We can determine who's to blame for a problem," she opined.

With regard to minimum salary imposed by Manila, "it is only fair. Kuwait and other countries should know that we are no longer in the 1980's. Don't compare the salary that was paid 15 to 20 years back with now. We have to adjust the salary and I personally support the US $400. The time has change drastically and the cost of living everywhere has skyrocketed," she mentioned.

The group of Mondragon met with Kuwaiti officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, including MP Adnan Al-Mutawa who is sponsoring the domestic labor law, "We spoke to them already and they are keen on cooperating with us. As they stressed, they have pending bill at the National Assembly that has not been deliberated yet. I see they are willing to cooperate and ready to enact the domestic labor law."

In the GCC countries, only Oman has fully agreed to terms and conditions put forward. The ban will be placed in accordance with Migrant Workers Act 'RA 8042 of 1995,' a bill that was dormant, but was amended in 2009 and signed by then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as RA 10022. "We are in the implementation phase. If Kuwait wants to continue hiring Filipino workers, our law is clear that it will only happen when at least one of the three elements is complied, plus the qualifying factors. They should evaluate or report periodically or provide the Philippines with a positive report about the progress of the prevailing law," she concluded.

(posted Kuwait Times, Sepetember 25, 2011)

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