Asean leaders guarantee workers’ rights in region

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Leaders of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are set to sign today the Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers that would benefit over 210,000 Filipino workers in the region.

The signing of the document is one of the highlights of the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits. Asean leaders signed in 2007 the Cebu Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

The document fulfills the Asean’s goal to develop an instrument that establishes “a framework for cooperation in safeguarding the interests and welfare of the thousands of migrant workers in the region.”

It strengthens the social protection and access to justice and health services of the region’s migrant workers, and ensures their humane and fair treatment.

The consensus document upholds fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provides for visitation rights by family members, prohibits confiscation of passports and overcharging of placement or recruitment fees, protects against violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, regulates recruiters for better protection of workers and respects their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits and their right to join trade unions and associations.

Like all Asean agreements, the document would be subject to the respective laws of the organization’s member-countries. It was completed by Asean senior labor officials on August 25.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said the consensus document would benefit the region’s migrant workers, including 212,435 Filipino migrant workers in Southeast Asia, majority of whom are employed in Singapore and Malaysia, based on 2016 statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

The document, he added, strengthens regional cooperation in preventing abuses, exploitation and violence against migrant workers.

“In cases where Filipino migrant workers are imprisoned, they will have rights no less favorable than those applied to the local workers. They also have the right to file grievances with the relevant authorities in the countries they are working in,” Bello said.

The Asean consensus document is a “living document” that would evolve in the years to come. It also calls for development of an action plan to concretize its implementation.

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