x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Employers urged to pay better wages to Filipinos

Recruitment agencies need to ensure that a new minimum wage for domestic workers set in the Philippines is enforced in the UAE, officials say.

ABU DHABI // Recruitment agencies must ensure employers pay the minimum wage set by the Philippines government for its nationals working abroad as domestics, a labour official has said.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with recruiters tomorrow, Nasser Munder, the labour attache in the capital, said: "We will discuss various issues affecting domestic workers. The recruiters need to compel the employers to pay at least US$400 [Dh1,469] a month."

Filipino migrant workers are hired through licensed recruitment agencies in the Philippines that are accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, an agency of the Department of Labour and Employment that promotes and monitors overseas employment.

The agency issued the $400 minimum wage directive in December 2006 - doubling it from the previous $200 minimum - as part of efforts to protect Filipinos working abroad.

Tomorrow, Mr Munder will meet recruiters from Abu Dhabi at the Philippine embassy. A separate meeting will be held for recruitment agencies in Al Ain.

There are about 60 agencies dealing with Filipino domestic workers in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Mr Munder wants to address contract substitution, in which workers are pressured or forced to sign a contract inferior to the one they were promised. Contract substitution is estimated to victimise most of the 25,000 household workers living and working in the Emirates - with many signing contracts for half the amount they agreed to work for.

In cases where contract substitution is reported, agencies in both countries will be held liable if the $400 minimum wage is not paid, Mr Munder said.

"But the problem lies when agencies in Manila settle the case with the worker before it reaches the court," he said.

To further complicate matters, recruitment agencies have lobbied for a minimum wage of $300 a month for domestic workers.

"But we need to follow the policy of Manila," he said. "If a worker is paid less than the minimum wage, we will suspend the processing of the agency's documents."

Danilo Cruz, the labour undersecretary in Manila, said last April that his government will not be reducing the minimum wage of Filipino domestic workers abroad.

Mr Cruz, who served as the labour attache in Abu Dhabi from 1990 to 1996, said $400 was a "reasonable" amount.

"Their jobs are really difficult," he said. "They do not have an eight-hour job, cater to a large household and do not get any overtime pay."

The incidence of housemaids fleeing would be reduced if they were better paid, Mr Munder said.

"If a worker is paid $400 or more, she is more likely to stay," he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae