The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) imposed a deployment ban on Jordan in January 2008 due to reports of widespread abuse to Filipino workers. Overseas Filipino workers in Jordan were maltreated; some were even raped. Despite these reports of abuses, the DoLE partially lifted the ban with no measures instituted to uplift the miserable conditions of OFWs in Jordan.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3 – 9, 2008
With the partial lifting of the deployment ban in Jordan, Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) organizations based in the region said it is imperative for the Arroyo administration to ensure the protection and welfare of Filipino household workers (HSWs) in Jordan and in other Middle Eastern countries.
No protection of rights.
In a statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said that HSW who are returning to work with the same employer in Jordan will be exempted from the previous ban provided that “the salary of the returning HSWs shall in no way be lower than the prescribed monthly pay for Filipino household service workers of US$400.”
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque has recently issued Department Order No. 93-08 series of 2008 that grants partial exemption to returning HSWs in Jordan. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)-Jordan were told to disseminate the information and to monitor the terms and conditions of employment of the returning HSWs to the same employers.
The labor department has set a monthly salary cap of US$400 to HSWs to ensure that only legitimate and capable employers can avail of the services of Filipino HSWs.
But for John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator, the DoLE Order No. 93-08, Series of 2008 is easier said than done in the absence of a labor rights’ pact with the host government.
“Our concern is how would DoLE ensure that employers will respect and honor the provisions of the employment contract including the US$400 minimum wage, eight-hour work and right to a day-off once a week, among other rights of HSWs,” Monterona said.
No bilateral agreement
For Monterona, a labor rights agreement between the Philippines and Jordan is a step forward in advancing OFWs’ rights and welfare.
“A labor rights pact should make foreign employers accountable to their hired HSWs,” he said.
In the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) January to June 2007 report to Congress, the Philippine Embassy in Amman stated that it “will make representations with relevant Jordanian authorities to review the bilateral labor agreement between Jordan and the Philippines (which was signed by then Labor Secretary Franklin Drilon in 1988 on behalf of the Philippines). The inclusion of provisions to address the condition of domestic workers will be a priority, it said.
But instead of the “reactivation” of the bilateral agreement, the Embassy reported that Labor Ministry Secretary General Majed Habashneh told Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) Executive Director Cresente Relacion in his July 18, 2007 visit that Jordan is more interested in signing a new “Memorandum of Understanding” to reflect the huge changes in the labor situation in Jordan vis-à-vis the Philippines. Habashneh said Jordan would provide a draft MOU for the Philippines’ review and consideration.
Moreover, Jordan has not been a signatory to the 1990 United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their families. The migrants groups said that Jordan hesitates to sign the said convention due to the presence of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and refugees within its own borders. In 2007, it is estimated that there are more or less 700,000 Egyptian migrant workers in Jordan, and 60,000 foreign domestic workers. It likewise hosts 1.6 million Palestinian refugees and more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees who started arriving after the US-led occupation of Iraq.