Currently 300 distressed OFWs housed at POLO-OWWA shelter
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 12: The Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Kuwait are waiting for the final decision of the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs to implement the temporary suspension on the deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) after the Philippine House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs has approved last September a motion of Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo, calling for a temporary ban on the deployment of HSWs to Kuwait due to the increasing reports of maltreatment and abuses.
“Once it is approved they will instruct us here to implement the ban. We are the implementer – the embassy, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment (Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). To date, there is no finality as to the ban issue,” disclosed Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa to the Arab Times.
On the part of the POLO leadership, they are also ready to follow the order from Manila. “As of now, we have not received any instruction or memo yet from our home office. We are still waiting for their decision and we will abide by their decision whether to suspend temporarily the deployment of Filipino HSWs to Kuwait or not,” explained Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait Atty Alejandro Padaen.
Based on the POLO records, around five to seven distressed HSWs run to the POLO-OWWA shelter daily to seek refuge from their alleged abusive employers despite the continuous repatriation of wards by the Philippine Embassy in cooperation with the authorities at the Kuwait Ministry of Interior.
In a statement, the House of Representatives said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs have the mandate to implement the ban. The committee said the deployment ban, if enforced, could be lifted once the welfare and protection of OFWs in Kuwait are assured. ACTS OFW Party-list Representative Aniceto Bertiz III earlier filed House Resolution No. 558, which seeks an investigation into the “repeated demand of Filipino organisations in Kuwait for a ban or moratorium on HSW deployment.”
“The decision of Philippines House of Representatives could be based from the testimonies of several Filipino community leaders who are continuously assisting the embassy in disposing appropriate help for OFWs. So, I think, once the MOU is signed the ban (if implemented) will be lifted immediately, so the ban is somehow connected to the MOU, which up till now is not signed,” he said.
The Philippine Embassy and POLO as well as owners of Philippine and Foreign manpower agencies, OFW advocacy groups and other stakeholders have been pushing for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the deployment and protection of Filipino Household Service Workers between Kuwait and the Philippines to protect the rights and welfare of Filipino domestic workers.
The issue on moratorium on the deployment of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) to Kuwait generated varied reactions from the Filipino community, representative and owners of manpower recruitment agencies in Kuwait as they all wait for the decision of the Philippine government on the matter. On the other hand, representatives and owners of manpower recruitment agencies in Kuwait strongly opposed the imposition of moratorium.
“Moratorium is not the solution to the problem because if this is implemented and if the Kuwait government strikes back then this might also affect our skilled workers. We believe government officials from both countries should sit down and talk,” stated Ailene Francisco, the auditor of the Filipino Association of Secretaries of Employment Agencies in Kuwait (FIL-ASEAK).
There are around 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait and around 150,000 of which are household service workers. Currently, there are almost 300 distressed OFWs staying temporarily at the POLO-OWWA shelter who escaped from their employers due to various forms abuses such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, overwork, lack of food or non-payment of salaries. “It’s about time that Kuwait should implement strictly the Domestic Labour Law to protect all domestic workers in the country,” urged Dr Chie Umandap, the Founder of Ako OFW Inc, a group of advocates from various parts of the world bound together to protect the rights and welfare of OFWs Steps In 2015, the Kuwait National Assembly passed the Domestic Labor Law which has yet to be fully implemented, though some steps have been taken to date by the Kuwait government to promote the rights and protection of domestic workers. The law grants around 600,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait, most of them Asian women, a 12-hour working day, a day off once a week, and 30 days annual leave. It also obliges employers to open a bank account for maids and transfer their wages to the account to resolve the problem of delays or non-payment of salaries and other provisions.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff