Calling the new guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration as a “sugar-coated extortion scheme,” OFWs in Hongkong and Migrante International, the local organization of OFWs, are planning more protest actions and bigger mobilizations.
BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Weekly protest actions in the Philippines and a big mobilization in Hong Kong are already set to show that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), their families and supporters are against the new guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Migrante International, an alliance of organizations of overseas Filipinos and their families, announced on Feb. 3 that weekly protests would be held at the POEA and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) offices starting Feb. 6.
Under the new guidelines, those applying as domestic helpers abroad had to undergo additional training under POEA’s Pre-Qualification for Household Service Workers scheme. The training would cost them P10, 000-P15, 000 ($205.29 to $307.94 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.71). Aside from this, the guideline sets the minimum wage of overseas domestic workers to $200 to $400. It also stipulates that no placement fee should be charged to applicants, but limits the minimum age to 25 years old.
Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-HK), said that the seemingly good aspects of the new guidelines, particularly the provision on the $400 minimum wage for domestic workers and the prohibition on the charging of placement fees, are but “sugar coatings to cover the real intent of the new scheme.”
These measures, government officials said, were put in place to protect contract workers from possible abuse.
But Migrante chair Connie Bragas-Regalado said that the government’s justification for the additional training is based on their baseless conclusion that the abuse of OFWs can be traced to their lack of skills in operating household appliances.
Calling this absurd, Bragas-Regaladao asked, “What about those who are raped, killed or outrightly treated as modern-slaves?”
Bragas-Regalado also said that the so- called “professionalization” program for domestic workers is but the government’s “bid to justify extortion” in the form of new training fees.
The latest POEA resolution clarified that only newly-hired maids are required to undergo a competency assessment administered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and a language and culture training from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said that his department has agreed to set the minimum age requirement for domestic helpers to 23 years old from 25.