A milestone: DOLE hails pro-HSW labor accord between PH and UAE

Published March 2, 2021, 7:51 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III has called the new labor agreement between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a “milestone”.

Secretary Silvestre Bello III

For one thing, it will finally lift the suspension on the formal deployment of Filipino household service workers or HSWs to the Middle Eastern country, which has been in effect since 2014.

Deployment of HSWs to UAE will resume on March 31, the agency said.

DOLE further described the new accord, which resulted from a two-day Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) between Philippine and UAE officials in Manila, as a “historic agreement giving greater protection to Filipino household service workers.”

Labor Usec. Claro Arellano lead the Philippine delegation in the meeting, while Saif Ahmed Alsuwaidi, undersecretary of Human Resources and Emiratisation, headed the UAE side.

“We are grateful for the cooperation of our counterparts,” Arellano said.

Arellano said the new deployment will now be covered by a unified employment contract, which provides stringent measures to protect Filipino HSWs pursuant to the directives of President Duterte.

The same provisions are present in the standard employment contract being used in Kuwait, which also has huge market for HSWs.

Under the unified contract, the employer and the Foreign Recruitment Agencies, as well as the Philippine Recruitment Agencies are bound by joint and solidary liability should anything happen to the Filipino workers.

The four-party contract, which becomes addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding on Labor Cooperation with Annex Protocol on Domestic Workers, incorporates the President’s instructions for specific provisions to ensure the safety and well-being of HSWs, as follows: These are the right of the domestic worker to take at least eight 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 (1) full days 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 right of the domestic worker to have and use cellular phones and other communication devices, and that the employer is prohibited from confiscating them; the right of the domestic worker to open a bank account under his or her name for payment of salary; and the right of the domestic workers to cook his or her own food.

And significant achievement during the JCM is the agreement on the conversion of tourist/visit visa to working visa.

As agreed by both sides, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) will be notified when a visit visa is converted to employment visa for a Filipino domestic worker.

The Philippines reiterated its position to only deploy the workers through the legal channel.

Therefore, the conversion of tourist visa to working visa is not recommended since this may lead to illegal recruitment and the trafficking of persons.