Migrant Group Hits POEA’s `Extortion’

How can pre-qualification requirements become mechanisms for extortion? For a migrant workers’ organization, this situation happens when the government imposes these on Filipinos who are forced to work abroad and have no other choice but to comply and to pay the corresponding fees.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

A Baguio City (246 kms from Manila) chapter of a migrant workers’ organization dismissed the new guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as just “another ploy to collect more money from overseas Filipino workers (OFW).”

Migrante-Metro Baguio Chair Flora Belinan criticized the POEA for requiring OFWs to undergo training and obtain the National Certificate for Household Service Workers from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Language and Culture Certificate of Competence from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and imposing the minimum wage policy.

“At first glance, these policies seem good but in reality it is extortion. This only proves that the government regards OFWs as milking cows,” Belinan stressed. She further questioned the timing of the implementation of the POEA prerequisite. “Just like other OFW funds, the funds derived from these new guidelines are vulnerable to graft and corruption, especially with the approaching 2007 elections.”

She admitted that it would be good to establish a minimum wage for OFWs all over the world but she doubts if the Philippine government would be able to assert this to host countries. “In the hundreds of cases we handled and are currently handling, the government has consistently failed to uphold and protect OFW rights and welfare. The present administration has been compromising with host countries at the expense of OFWs.”

Belinan said that on Jan. 7, two of the 15 OFWs who protested unfair labor practices of Annasban Groups in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came home after their families paid the said employer the fines that their respective recruitment agencies should have shouldered. She said the Philippine government failed to assist the OFWs. “They could not even protect OFWs from simple contract violations how much more to assert a minimum wage to host countries?”

Moreover, Belinan said that the government has failed to come up with mechanisms and procedures to enforce such policies. She also said that earlier in 2005, when OFWs in Hong Kong protested the wage cut, the Arroyo administration even acted favor of the Hong Kong government. “Ultimately, and again we call on, the government to create more decent jobs in the country to accommodate its work force.” (Bulatlat.com)

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