x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Deal to safeguard UAE Filipino workers’ rights to be signed soon

An agreement that safeguards the rights of both Filipino workers and their employers in the UAE will be signed soon, a top Filipino labour official said. It will cover all workers, except domestic workers.

ABU DHABI // An agreement that safeguards the rights of Filipino workers and their employers in the UAE will be signed soon.

“We are in the final negotiation phase and we will be signing it in a few months,” said Danilo Cruz, the undersecretary for employment and manpower development at the Philippines’ labour department. “It will be signed in the UAE or in Manila.”

Labour officials in both countries are still refining the provisions of the deal on the recruitment and employment of all types of Filipino workers, except for domestic staff.

“The UAE has raised three issues,” Mr Cruz said. “There is a provision that pertains to verified contracts which should be the basis for any action in the UAE.”

This matter is now being looked into by the Philippine overseas employment administration, an agency under the department of labour and employment which monitors the departure of migrant workers and regulates recruitment agencies through a licensing system.

The agency approves contracts with workers seeking employment abroad, monitors malpractices, and prosecutes those violating recruitment standards and rules.

The deal will amend an old agreement signed in Manila on April 9, 2007, by the Labour Minister at the time, Dr Ali Al Kaabi, and Arturo Brion, who was the Philippines labour secretary. “It is a fairly general labour agreement,” said Mr Cruz, who was labour attache in Abu Dhabi from 1990 to 1996.

“On the part of the Philippines, our labour department is more focused on the protections of the rights and welfare of our workers, while on the UAE’s side, it seeks to safeguard the interest of the employers.”

In November, Rosalinda Baldoz, the labour secretary, said the UAE Ministry of Labour was still working on the agreement, and it was being reviewed by its legal team.

This agreement does not cover household staff such as maids, nannies, gardeners, cooks or family drivers.

Those workers fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior, so the Ministry of Labour cannot include them in this deal, according to Mr Cruz.

“After Saudi Arabia, we are now pushing for a standard employment contract for our domestic workers in other countries, including the UAE,” he said. “We are asking the Ministry of Labour of the UAE to assist us because we have limited representation with the Ministry of Interior. At the same time our department of foreign affairs is also onboard in all these negotiations.”

The Philippines and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in May last year to provide more rights and better protect migrant domestic workers.

They agreed on a standard employment contract, and a US$400 (Dh1,469) minimum monthly salary was set, as were weekly rest days and paid holidays.

“For us $400 is non-negotiable,” Mr Cruz said. “If both countries agree to a standard employment contract, contract substitution will be avoided.”

On January 28, Mr Cruz chaired a meeting of a technical working group from the UAE, Kuwait and the Philippines to prepare for the senior officials meeting in May and the ministerial meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue 3 in November in Kuwait.

Some initiatives adopted by labour-sending and receiving countries during the Abu Dhabi Dialogue 2 meeting in Manila included enhancing the skills of workers, improving the recruitment process, ensuring a balance between labour supply and demand and helping workers adapt to foreign employment.

“We did not discuss specific issues among the countries,” he said. “We are now implementing programmes to be presented for approval and implemented by the member-states.”

The UAE proposed a programme on mutual skills recognition and certifications, while the Philippines put forward a uniform pre-departure orientation programme for migrants.

rruiz@thenational.ae