x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

Philippines hopes to sign new labour pact with UAE this year

UAE and Philippines are expected to sign an amended labour agreement this year.

ABU DHABI // The UAE and the Philippines are hoping to this year sign an amended labour agreement that conforms to both countries' laws.

"It's still in the technical working group stage," said Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai who assumed his post in July.

"This means that the group in the Philippines is still studying the old MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] that lapsed on April 9, and will propose some amendments."

The working group will send a draft to the UAE through the Philippine overseas labour offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Manila will then form a negotiating team.

But there is no set date for the Philippine draft revision of the five-year-old agreement or the signing of the pact.

"The UAE will wait for our draft but we're hoping that the new MoU would be signed this year," Mr Cruz said.

Nasser Munder, the Philippine labour attache in Abu Dhabi, said it was time the agreement was finally signed.

"But it will take time," said Mr Munder, who is due to leave his post in January after six years.

The old MoU was signed in Manila on April 9, 2007, by the then UAE labour minister Dr Ali Al Kaabi and Arturo Brion, who was the Philippine labour secretary.

"Back then, the technical working groups of the UAE and the Philippines exchanged draft MoUs and later came up with a final version," Mr Munder said.

He said both countries should also have implemented rules and regulations to enforce the agreement.

Mr Munder said he hoped the new MoU would include electronic contracts to prevent cases of contract substitution, where a worker is forced to sign a contract that is inferior to the one they signed at home.

But the MoU will not cover domestic workers such as maids, nannies, gardeners, cooks, private tutors and family drivers , Mr Cruz said.

Since December 2006, the Philippines has required its citizens to be paid at least US$400 (Dh1,469) a month for domestic work.

"Sometimes our compatriots are aware that they'll be paid less and agree to it," Mr Cruz said. "There's nothing we can do if they do not complain."

But Mr Munder said the UAE had made progress in protecting household workers.

On June 16 last year, the country voted in favour of the ILO Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at a conference in Geneva.

It promises domestic workers clear conditions of employment before they start work, a monthly salary in cash, one day off every week and freedom of association.

rruiz@thenational.ae