OFWs Face Bleak Future as Global Crisis Hits Companies Worldwide

A Taiwanese broker reportedly told the WAEI workers they would not get any separation pay nor provisions for food and airfare to the Philippines if they refused to sign the agreement.

He also reminded the workers that they’d have to pay 20 percent income tax if they stayed for less than 183 days in Taiwan, a policy of Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance. Most of the retrenched workers were employed only for four to six months in Taiwan, hence, were scared to incur additional expenses.

Migrante said the rate of retrenchments in Taiwan has become so alarming that the number of retrenched workers may go over the 11,000 earlier projected by Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs this year.

In April this year, a hundred of the 213 displaced Taiwan OFWs sought the help of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Southern Mindanao.

Ron Lionel Bartolome, OWWA regional director, said his office approved the application of 64 displaced OFWs for the Filipino Expatriates Livelihood Support Fund Loan, amounting to 50,000 pesos each.

He said the zero-interest loan was payable in two years with three months grace period. OWWA’s other assistance to displaced OFWs included basic computer training to OFW dependents and vocational courses under the Skills for Employment Scholarship Program.

Bartolome said displaced OFWs only had three options where OWWA can help them: seek for local employment, seek for another overseas job or put up their own businesses.

The OWWA office did not have any data on the exact number of displaced OFWs from the region but as of April last year, it monitored 46,583 sea-based and land-based OFWs working abroad.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported some 1.377 million OFWs deployed around 190 countries in 2008 alone.

As early as November last year, DoLE formed a quick reaction team (QRT) to help displaced OFWs from Taiwan and other countries affected by the crisis.

Secretary Marianito Roque said the QRT targeted to find some placement for the displaced OFWs in other countries.

DoLE also set up Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in more than 30 strategic host destinations around the world to monitor and secure the benefits of displaced workers, provide job replacement and repatriation assistance.

Of the 5,404 OFWs displaced in January this year, 613 were provided with emergency employment assistance, 965 with job referrals, 1,007 with legal assistance on their money claims, 422 with skills training and, 1,453 with livelihood assistance.

The National Reintegration Center for OFWs also put up a one-stop center, providing free counseling services to workers.

Roque said OWWA also encouraged more OFWs to become entrepreneurs, hence, were providing entrepreneurship training for displaced OFWs.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed in December last year the administrative order allocating P250 million ($5.24 million based on the current exchange rate of $1 =P47.664) for the OWWA to assist displaced workers.

But Migrante International said most OFWs could not afford the government’s livelihood programs. “Government’s so-called ‘assistance package’ were loans which OFWs had to repay,” Gina Gaborni, Migrante International deputy secretary general, pointed out. “They could hardly afford it,” she said.

“Besides, only 10 percent or 5,000 pesos of the allotted 50,000 pesos for each expatriate worker is available,” she said. “The rest (of the assistance) are given in goods. Before anyone can avail himself of these benefits, one has to attend seminars, trainings, draw a feasibility study for a livelihood program and other requirements,” Gaborni said.

Gaborni said the government should protect the labor rights of retrenched workers instead of giving them false hopes on other jobs abroad. Davao Today/Posted by (Bulatlat.com)

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