x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Big player' recruiters in the UAE comply with minimum wage rules for Filipina maids

Recruiters are starting to adhere to the request for Filipino housemaids to receive a US$400 minimum wage.

ABU DHABI // Some UAE recruitment agencies are finally shunning clients who refuse to pay the US$400 minimum wage per month to Filipina maids.

In the past, 15 agencies considered "big players" would submit 100 individual contracts per month to the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai for approval.

That number has decreased by almost 50 per cent from November 2012 until March this year, said Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai.

The total number of individual maid contracts verified per month declined from an average of 1,800 to 1,300 per month.

"It's an indication that there is an effort to comply," Mr Cruz said. "They are now turning down clients who are not willing to pay the minimum wage to Filipinos and are referring them to other nationalities."

India has set a Dh1,100 minimum wage for domestic staff in the UAE; Indonesia Dh800; Sri Lanka Dh825; and Bangladesh Dh750. Nepal requires a minimum wage of Dh900 and has banned women under 30 from working in the Arabian Gulf.

In November, 63 agencies in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and 50 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates signed an agreement on pay and conditions with the Philippine association of manpower agencies.

Both parties committed to follow the reform package and ensure that specific benefits are provided by the employer: one rest day a month, three meals a day, eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, decent sleeping quarters and the right to own and use a mobile phone.

A reform package from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Poea) in December 2006 required household staff to be paid a monthly minimum wage of $400, to be at least 23 and not be required to pay placement fees.

"Since the signing of the agreement in November, we've been monitoring the agencies and cases of runaway housemaids," Mr Cruz said. "We've received as many as 10 affidavits from maids hired through some of the 'big players' that were non-compliant."

Delia Palomar, the assistant labour attache in Abu Dhabi, said, based on random phone calls to agencies in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, a number of recruiters adhered to the $400 minimum salary.

However, there are concerns that recruiters and employers may resort to "paper compliance" - agreeing to the terms on paper, but the worker is ultimately paid a reduced wage.

"An employer once asked, 'why are Filipinos demanding so much and then they run away?" she said.

Monitoring the compliance of all 118 recruitment agencies in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain registered with her office would be difficult, Ms Palomar said.

Some agencies file complaints against those who offer the services of Filipina for less than $400. In that case, the labour office would send a memo to the agencies asking them to comply or risk losing their accreditation.

Labour officials also interview maids to check for compliance.

"But they are not willing to execute an affidavit to attest that they were paid less than $400," Ms Palomar said.

Copies of the sworn statements against recruiters are sent to the Poea for legal action, and those with repeated violations face "preventive" suspension to prevent further exploitation of workers.

rruiz@thenational.ae