ABU DHABI // A bilateral labour agreement between the UAE and the Philippines will mean better working conditions for more than 600,000 workers, a Filipino labour official in Abu Dhabi said.
The labour ministers of both countries are due to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in April on employment protection and welfare and the eventual return and reintegration of overseas Filipino workers, said Nasser Munder, the labour attache in Abu Dhabi.
The pact will help address problems related to contract substitution, Mr Munder said. This happens when a second, inferior contract to the signed original is presented to a worker, either before leaving the home country or after arriving.
"The UAE Ministry of Labour and the Philippines Department of Labour and Employment are still in the process of drafting the MoU," he said. The agreement would "define the parameters of protection under the existing labour laws as well as the reintegration programme for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)", Mr Munder said.
The MoU will be signed in Manila at the second Abu Dhabi Dialogue, a conference to forge greater partnerships between nine worker-destination nations, including Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and 11 countries of origin such as the Philippines, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The conference was first held in 2008 in Abu Dhabi, where it launched a "collaborative approach" to address labour issues, including temporary labour mobility in Asia.
"Any MoU on labour cooperation with country destinations of OFWs is welcome because it will further ensure their protection," said Nicon Fameronag, the spokesman for Manila's labour department.
The MoU will not include domestic workers, which are not covered under UAE labour laws.The Ministry of Interior oversees domestic workers' issues and concerns.
Mr Munder said the UAE had made strides in the protection of household workers. Last June, it voted in favour of the International Labour Organisation Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at a conference of member states in Geneva.
The charter promises clearly defined conditions of employment for domestic workers, a monthly salary paid in cash, at least one day off every week and freedom of association and collective bargaining. It also requires governments to regulate private employment agencies, investigate complaints and stop employers from deducting recruitment fees from wages.
The Cabinet has approved a law to ensure maids are paid and employers are protected against runaway employees. On January 22, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, posted on Facebook that the council of ministers had approved a law, passed to them from the Ministry of Interior, that "shall protect the rights of both the employee and employer".
Maj Gen Nasser Al Menhali, the Interior Ministry's acting assistant undersecretary for naturalisation, residency and ports affairs, said the law would give both parties rights.