6 March 2010
Government failure to permanently ban abusive recruitment agencies means that many more OFWs will suffer what the Annasban caregivers went through.
As fellow OFWs celebrate the victory gained by Annasban OFWs who staged a three-day protest camp-out in front of the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Manila this week, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand joined their calls for the Philippine government to permanently blacklist their recruitment agencies for their track record of labor contract violations.
While we rejoice that their camp-out forced OWWA to heed some of their demands for compensation, we support their demand for the government to permanently blacklist their recruitment agencies from deploying Filipinos abroad. It must exert all efforts to repatriate the 5 women caregivers who are still in Saudi Arabia.
Migrante Aotearoa also calls to task the Philippine government to strictly monitor and blacklist all other recruitment agencies that collect exorbitant fees and engage in contract substitution. Some nurses who came to work as caregivers in New Zealand complained of such schemes of recruitment agencies that placed them in resthomes with difficult conditions.
Low wages, 12-hour working day, child labor and inhuman working conditions — these were the main reasons why millions of women around the world held protests and why International Women’s Day is officially commemorated every March 8. The plight of the 67 female caregivers who had no days off and were made to work for 12 hours or more daily in Saudi Arabia is a grim testament that under the Philippine government’s labor export thrust, migrant workers especially women are very vulnerable to exploitative working conditions. Their recruitment agencies left them broke as they suffered contract substitution, delayed salaries, illegal deductions and non-payment of overtime pay and other benefits stipulated in their contracts.
We further demand government to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies that limit government assistance. Instead of assisting ALL OFWs in need, government agencies neglect those who could not afford to pay OWWA dues. Even for OWWA members, it is deplorable that OFWs hardly get support such as the Annasban OFWs who almost starved to death before they were repatriated. They paid OWWA dues and were qualified for assistance, yet they were forced to stage hunger strike abroad to call government attention.
OFWs around the world who became flat broke after losing jobs have the same tales of government neglect. Those who cannot claim OWWA assistance desperately find ways to afford a plane ticket back home. Isn’t it enough that OFWs and their families have been paying taxes to the government all these years? Why can’t the government at least ensure free air tickets for all distressed OFWs wanting to go home? There are thousands of undocumented non-OWWA members needing urgent assistance, will the government wait for them to be dead before they get any support?
We challenge the next administration ensure decent jobs at home and provide immediate assistance and compensation for distressed OFWs. This March 8, let the voices of Annasban OFWs and all exploited migrants be heard: Proteksyon, hindi koleksyon! Serbisyo, hindi negosyo! Scrap OWWA Omnibus Policies!
National Coordinator, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand