x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

New safety net for Filipino workers in UAE

Filipino labour officials hope that workers heading to the UAE this year will benefit from insurance coverage provided under a new law in the Philippines.

Filipino labour officials hope that workers heading to the UAE this year will benefit from insurance coverage provided under a new law in the Philippines.
Filipino labour officials hope that workers heading to the UAE this year will benefit from insurance coverage provided under a new law in the Philippines.

ABU DHABI // Filipino labour officials say they hope workers heading to the UAE this year will benefit from insurance coverage provided under a new law in the Philippines.

Under the amended Filipino Migrant Workers Act, recruitment agencies must provide a $72 (Dh264) insurance policy for each year a worker is under contract.

The law took effect on November 8. It applies to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are hired by agencies, and who are leaving the country for the first time. It also applies to agency-hired OFWs who have new contracts.

The insurance policy covers natural and accidental death and permanent disability, repatriation costs, medical repatriation and three months' salary for every year of the migrant worker's contract for money claims arising from the employer's liability, among other benefits.

"It was made mandatory with the welfare of the overseas Filipino workers in mind," said Nasser Munder, the Filipino labour attache in Abu Dhabi. "Repatriating workers who are covered by this insurance will be much easier."

At the moment, most of the women at the labour-office shelter in the capital either do not have money to pay for an air ticket or their passports are still with their employers. The Filipinas have left their jobs after complaining of being mistreated, overworked, or unpaid.

"Unfortunately, these workers are not covered by the mandatory insurance requirement which took effect last November," he said.

"Recruiters are against [the policy]," Mr Munder added. "They find the US$72 annual premium too costly, and also fear that foreign employers will start hiring workers of other nationalities."

Private recruitment agencies in the Philippines and the UAE manage much of the flow of the 200,000 Filipino workers who head annually to the Emirates, according to a Washington-based Migration Policy Institute report last June.

Recruiters say employers in the GCC, including the UAE, already secure insurance coverage for their foreign workers, making the Philippine government's new policy redundant, Mr Munder said.

But Amilbahar Amilasan, the labour attache in Dubai, said not all companies provide coverage.

"The [Philippine Overseas Employment Administration] has to implement the law," he said. "They [recruiters] could relay their concerns to our congressmen, who will put forth the amendments to the law."

The overseas employment agency is part of the Philippines' Department of Labour and Employment. It promotes and monitors overseas employment.

On Monday, Christopher Lomibao, the secretary of the congressional committee on overseas workers affairs, said the committee had consulted with the recruitment agencies and other sectors on December 15. All their concerns will be taken up by a joint oversight committee of congress later this month, he said.

"Some sectors are calling for the deferment of the implementation of the law, while the recruitment agencies are asking for the lowering of the cost of the premium," Mr Lomibao said.

John Leonard Monterona, the regional coordinator for Migrante - Middle East, a group created to protect Filipinos overseas, said they were opposing the new policy on the basis that it does not guarantee workers' protection from mistreatment or abuse.

"No amount of money can compensate for the loss of an OFW's life, or for human dignity," he said. "We intend to launch a signature campaign against its implementation in Saudi Arabia this Friday."

 

rruiz@thenational.ae