3,000 OFWs in Hong Kong push for refund of ‘unnecessary’ training fees

Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong join the movement to stop the collection of training fees. (Photo courtesy of Migrante – Hong Kong)
“Refunding the training fees in full is a financial relief to the eager claimants amid the impacts of the pandemic to their work and to the families they have left behind in the Philippines. This will also give them a sense of justice.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong have called on the Philippine government through its consulate there to look into the training fees collected by recruitment agencies, and how OFWS are being harassed for demanding refund.

The United Filipinos in Hongkong (UNIFIL) has assisted over 3,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong in filing their refund claims for training fees paid to recruitment agencies.

The training fee stems from long-standing guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agencies (POEA) stating that no placement fees will be imposed on Filipinos seeking domestic work abroad but mandatory training is required. Dolores Pelaez of UNIFIL said this is how recruitment agencies are able to circumvent the no placement fee policy.

“There is no ceiling for these training fees. It can go as high as about P40,000 ($832) to P60,000 ($1,248) for a one-week or two-week training. Some even reported that they took the training for only a couple of days,” Pelaez told Bulatlat in a phone interview.

Such training, however, is not even required by Hong Kong employers, Pelaez added.

“Refunding the training fees in full is a financial relief to the eager claimants amid the impacts of the pandemic to their work and to the families they have left behind in the Philippines. This will also give them a sense of justice,” Pelaez said.

Apart from the training fee, Filipinos seeking domestic work abroad also need to cough up for their medical fees and other government requirements. Pelaez said they have documented Filipinos spending up to P150,000 ($3,121) for training and other mandatory requirements.

Some recruitment agencies have provided counter-offers outside the conciliation process of the Philippine Overseas Labor and Office, which ranges from P5,000 ($104) to P10,000 ($208).

“These methods show that these agencies have no interest in being fair. They do not have our best interest at heart. In fact, they want to undermine the process so that they can keep their loot,” said Pelaez.

Pelaez revealed that recruitment agencies have resorted to scare tactics against Filipino migrant workers. Among these include calling their employers to terminate their contract with workers, or workers being blacklisted from work as they owe their work in Hong Kong to these recruitment agencies.

As of this writing, UNIFIL has documented at least one Filipino domestic helper who was let go by her employer due to relentless harassment.

“Tigil Na Movement,” a solidarity group of Filipino domestic workers asking the government to stop collection of the training fees, will join the Feb. 14 One Billion Rising. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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