By Leslie Ann Aquino
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said this following the recent signing of the harmonized standardized employment contract for household service workers between Kuwait and the Philippines in accordance with the memorandum that was signed between the two countries in 2018.
“I am considering recommending to the (POEA) board the lifting of the ban with respect to semi-skilled, skilled workers, and professionals. And probably, I have not decided on that yet, probably yung balik manggagawa,” he said in an interview Wednesday adding that newly hired HSWs are still covered by the prohibition.
“If you recall, I imposed two conditions for the total lifting…the consensus on the harmonized standardized employment contract plus justice for Ms. Jeanelyn Villavende. These two must be met for us to consider the lifting,” added Bello.
Villavende was the OFW killed in Kuwait recently.
Earlier, the labor chief said the deployment ban was imposed because of the brutal killing of Villavende, the attempt to cover it up, and the failure of the Kuwaiti government to come to an agreement regarding the finalization of the standard employment contract.
“I have to be satisfied that Jeanelyn will be really given justice. I should know anytime by now the charges which have been filed. Although they told us it was murder. But I don’t think I will be contended with murder. It should be murder with rape or homicide with rape. And also who are the accused,” Bello said.
Although they already received the documents they requested on the case of Villavende and other OFWs, he said they still need to “validate” this.
Bello said he will meet with the POEA Governing Board on Thursday to discuss the possibility of partially lifting the ban.
Last week, Bello, Undersecretary Claro Arellano, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) head Hans Leo Cacdac, and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Bernard Olalia met with Kuwaiti officials to discuss and agree on a standard employment contract to ensure the welfare and protection of OFWs in the gulf state.
The salient provisions of the standard employment contract include prohibition for employers to keep any of the worker’s personal identity documents such as passport, and the entitlement of a worker to own a phone and use it outside the working hours provided that she keeps the secrets and privacy of the household, and use such phone in a manner consistent with public morals.
The OFWs are also entitled to a paid full day per week break and must not work for more than 12 hours a day. The worker should be allowed to have no less than an hour break after five consecutive hours of work, and the right to at least eight hours of consecutive night rest.
Employers are also prohibited to assign a domestic worker to work outside of the State of Kuwait or be transferred to another employer without the OFWs’ written consent. If this occurs without the agreement of the worker, the worker will be returned to the Philippines at the expense of the employer.
The employer should ensure the OFWs adequate life and is obliged to provide the medical treatment and nursing by registering her in the health system applicable in Kuwait.
Bello said the harmonized employment contract should be retroactive and effective immediately.