MANILA, Philippines — About 1,000 members of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) and SKRAP the Ban coalition trooped to the Philippine Consulate General on Monday to submit a petition against a ban on direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers.
The petition, signed by more than 11,000 OFWs, said that contrary to its avowed purpose, the ban does not serve to protect the workers but only benefit unscrupulous recruiters.
"It is never for our protection. The only interest that the ban on direct hiring is serving is that of the government and unscrupulous recruiters - not us, migrant workers," said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of Unifil-Migrante-HK and convenor of the SKRAP the Ban coalition.
“Overcharging of recruitment fees and the lack of government protection and services are the widespread and serious problems we are facing, not direct hiring. Direct hiring is in fact the only recourse we have to get saved from overcharging of greedy recruiters," she said in a press statement.
Balladres-Pelaez reported that in a survey of the HK-based NGO Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW), about 74 percent of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong were employed through recruitment agencies. Of this percentage, 54% were made to pay P60,000 to more than P100,000 as agency fees.
She said it must be noted that placement fees are supposed to have been abolished by the recruitment guidelines of the POEA issued in 2007. However, she said, recruiters continue to collect huge amount of fees disguised as training charges.
“What the guidelines did was worsen the problem as it removed any legal limitation to what recruiters can charge to migrants. Up to now, no effective action have been done to stamp up overcharging," she said.
Balladares-Pelaez also scored the “conciliation" process that the Philippine Consulate General in HK uses to resolve disputes on overcharging. She said that such moves only encourage unscrupulous recruiters to keep on with their modus operandi for they know that they can get off easily if complaints are lodged by the migrants.
She stressed that such a situation is also happening in other countries. She reported that placement fees for Taiwan-bound OFWs are from P80,000 to P140,000 paid in cash or through salary deductions. In the Middle East placement agencies do not care about the plight of domestic workers and even force a number of them to work with other employers with no or little pay until their loans are paid.
“Protection will never come from recruiters who are only concerned with how much profit they can get from us. Ban on direct hiring is just the government’s way to pass on its responsibility of providing assistance to the OFWs to the recruitment agencies. Ironically said agencies are now batting for a compulsory employment liability insurance in Congress so that they can be relieved of the burden of money claims or damages sought by workers," she explained.
Balladares-Pelaez believed that the ban on direct hiring is an incentive that the government is providing to recruiters in line with its agenda of intensifying the export of Filipinos abroad. She said that such move is reflected in the Administrative Order 247 issued by the government that directed recruiters to be more aggressive in exploring labor markets.
“The ban is not the answer to our problems. In these times of crisis, what we need are concrete protection and services and not license for recruiters to overcharge nor a more intensifies labor export," she said. - D’Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV