OFW Group Not Content with Suspension of POEA Memo, Demands for its Junking

Even as migrant workers rejoice over the suspension of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Memorandum Circular (MC)-04, a coalition opposing it reiterated their call for its scrapping as well as stricter regulation of the practices of recruitment agencies and a review of other policies oppressive to OFWs.

BY AUBREY MAKILAN
MIGRANT WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 3, February 17-23, 2008

Even as migrant workers rejoice over the suspension of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Memorandum Circular (MC)-04, a coalition opposing it reiterated their call for its scrapping as well as stricter regulation of the practices of recruitment agencies and a review of other policies oppressive to OFWs.

“As long as it is merely suspended, it will always hang over our heads only waiting for a better time before being implemented,” said Dolores Balladares, co-convenor of the Samahan Laban sa Katiwalian ng Recruitment Agencies at Patakarang MC-04 (SKRAP MC-04 or Association Against Anomalous Practices of Recruitment Agencies and the MC-04 Policy).

Nevertheless, she said, the suspension of the controversial memo was a victory for overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) whose “collective action has borne gains for our rights.”

POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz said that MC-04 was suspended after a directive was issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Baldoz said the POEA governing board would still discuss what to do with the memo Feb. 18.

Passed last December and implemented Jan. 15, POEA Memorandum Circular (MC) 04 sets guidelines in the direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Under this memorandum, employers opting for direct hiring are required to post a repatriation bond of US$5,000 and a performance bond equivalent to three months’ salary of the worker. The repatriation bond shall guarantee the actual cost of repatriation of remains of directly hired OFWs following death from any cause, and the actual cost incurred for repatriation from other causes such as violation or non-compliance with the contract among others. Amendments to the memorandum exempted Canada, Italy and Hong Kong from its coverage.

The purpose of MC 04, the POEA website said, is “to provide OFWs hired by ‘other employers allowed by the Secretary’ and without the participation of any licensed agency the same measure of protection and guarantee for compliance by the employer with the employment contract, including the obligation to repatriate the worker upon expiry of the contract, or its termination for causes not attributable to the worker, or in the event of his death. This is in line with the Government’s primary policy of giving utmost protection to OFWs.”

Balladares said the suspension of the memo “is the result of the united protest of OFWs around the world and that of our families in the Philippines.” She said migrant groups sustained their campaign and “were not deceived by the promise of protection of MC-04 nor of the tricky exemption.”

Aside from the POEA MC-04, Balladares added, the POEA, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the government as a whole should address other migrant workers’ concerns, specifically regarding the practices of recruitment agencies, services and protection of OFWs, and the dollar depreciation.

“Overcharging and other illegal practices of recruitment agencies and their accomplices in the money lending industry still abound despite the suspension of the new rule,” said the migrant leader, who also dared the government to be decisive in persecuting erring recruitment agencies and institutionalizing ways on how OFWs can be better protected from the greed and abuse of unscrupulous recruiters and money lenders.

She likewise criticized the POEA Guidelines on Recruitment and Deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers implemented in January 2007, which imposed a “no placement fee” policy but at the same time required new OFWs applying for domestic work to undergo training.

She said that this is worse because agencies allegedly use the training requirement to charge more without fear of getting slapped with overcharging. She explained that before this ruling, “legal placement fee” is equivalent to only one month’s salary of the worker. On the other hand, she said that the training fee “has no limitation and thus has opened the floodgates for more charges.”

Aside from these, the group also called for the scrapping of the Omnibus Policies of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) that they said denied Filipino migrants of their rightful services from the OWWA. The group said that this policy institutionalized the collection of $25 membership fee from OFWs instead of employers, while limiting membership to those with “active contracts.”

With their initial victory against POEA MC-04, Balladares said it has shown that the ‘unity and actions’ of Filipinos abroad are their ‘best weapons’ against any policy of the government that they deem detrimental to OFW rights and well-being.” (Bulatlat.com)

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