How bad does the United Arab Emirates government (UAE) want the formal deployment of Filipino workers there to resume?
Bad enough for them to send a “high-level” delegation to Manila so they may talk to senior Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) officials even during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
DOLE-International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) Director Alice Visperas revealed in a virtual press briefing Monday, Feb.22 that the Joint Committee Meeting or JCM between the two nations will push through on March 1 and 2, following the arrival of UAE officials here.
Topping the agenda according to Visperas is the memorandum of agreement (MOA) that had been signed between UAE and the Philippines.
“Tungkol po ito sa pagpapadala ng ating mga kababayan sa UAE. Mayroon pong mga provision na hindi pa po napagkakasunduan sa attached standard employment contract, ito po yung pangunahing usapin sa meeting (This is about sending our workers to UAE. There are still provisions on the attached standard employment contract that have yet to be finalized. This will be the main topic of the meeting),” she said.
“We have an existing bilateral labor agreement with them, hindi pa po ito naeenforce dahil hindi pa po kumpleto. Suspended din po ang deployment ng workers sa UAE (it has yet to be enforced before it’s not yet complete. The deployment of workers to UAE is also currently suspended),” the DOLE official noted.
Visperas said that there has been no formal deployment of Filipino workers to the Middle Eastern country in at least three years. This notwithstanding the continued informal arrival of Filipinos there who are employed despite only having visit visas, which must be renewed every three months.
But the high-level meeting next month could change all that by clearing the channel for formal deployment of Filipino workers.
“Inaasahan na po natin na magkakaroon na tayo ng kasunduan doon sa attached standard employment contract, mahalaga po ito (We expect to finalize the agreement on the attached standard employment contract, this is important),” Visperas said.
This key provision guarantees basic workers’ rights while in the UAE, including the prohibition on the employer to keep the overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) passport, reasonable working hours, having rest days, and proper salary.
“Gusto na kasi ng UAE side na mag-resume na ulit yung deployment ng workers (The UAE side wants the deployment of workers to resume already),” she stressed. The country has a good market for both service sector and skilled workers.
There are an estimated 600,000 documented OFWs in the UAE. Some 400,000 of them are in Dubai, while the remaining 200,000 is in Abu Dhabi.
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III has repeatedly said that the Filipino worker is preferred the world over, not only due to their proficiency in English, but also because of their hard-working nature and trustworthiness.