OWWA-ARMM cautions prospective overseas workers on direct hiring

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News -

COTABATO CITY - The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWAARMM) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao warned prospective overseas workers to avoid so-called "direct hiring" scheme and instead engage with legitimate recruitment agencies to ensure their work documents are processed properly and in accordance with standards set by their employers.

Odin Abdula, OWWAARMM’S programs and services division chief, told Aksyon-armm – a one-hour radio program of the Bureau of Public Information - that prospective overseas workers should transact only with licensed agencies duly accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

This information was relayed following reports of rampant labor violations committed by employers mostly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Middle East.

Abdula said workers hired through legitimate agencies are assured of support as parallel efforts between foreign agencies or employers overseas and that of the government are done to address concerns of deployed workers.

The direct hiring scheme, however, limits Philippine overseas labor officers to immediately respond to problems of workers due to the absence of a legitimate agency compounded further by stringent labor laws carried out by the host country.

“We usually remind recruitment agencies based in Manila and foreign agencies or employers overseas of their liability under Republic Act 8042 as amended by Republic Act 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” said Abdula.

This law protects and promotes the welfare of migrant workers including their families and provides immediate assistance to overseas Filipinos in distress.

Abdula noted that a high number, or up to 90%, of welfare cases involving overseas household service workers from the region covers maltreatment, sexual and physical abuses, as well as underpaid and unpaid salaries. The remaining 10% represents skilled or low-skilled company workers' complaints of illegal termination.

Data obtained from OWWA-ARMM showed that from July 1 to 29, 2016, a total of 77 welfare cases involving five male company workers and 72 female household service overseas workers were recorded and attended by the agency.

As of August 2016, the number of welfare cases rose to 152 involving 37 male and 115 female workers. The increase in cases filed by male workers is due to the crisis in Saudi Arabia wherein some companies suffered financial setbacks and thus have to resort to retrenchment. There are around 21,700 workers, generally male, affected by crisis, records showed.

On cases of repatriation, Abdula stressed that four repatriated workers have sought help from OWWAARMM. As per record, he said, 30 families and 29 workers are to be scheduled for repatriation. These workers are still in Saudi Arabia working for the release of their unpaid salaries and end-ofservice benefits.

For repatriated workers, a P2 billion-fund intended for livelihood under the reintegration program is available, Abdula added. OWWA raised P1 billion while the other P1 billion is from the Land Bank of the Philippines. The fund is covered by a memorandum of agreement wherein the bank manages the fund as OWWA has no capacity to determine the viability of livelihood projects.

Stranded overseas workers in Saudi Arabia and those who have been repatriated to the Philippines but have not received their benefits are given cash assistance of 1,590 Rials, or P20,000, while families of workers still at the jobsite are granted P6,000 apart from the scholarship programs offered by the government.

Workers planning to work overseas are advised to undergo a pre-orientation seminar offered, the OWWAARMM official said. This can be done online even while their papers are still being processed. “Do not go abroad if not through a legitimate agency. There are agencies whose license to operate are cancelled but still accepting documents for prospective OFWS,” Abdula warned.

OWWA-ARMM is also coordinating with local government units for additional resources that could immediately provide other forms of assistance such as scholarship grants to repatriated OFWS.

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