THE governments of the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates have signed a labor cooperation agreement that would reinforce protection for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on labor cooperation was signed recently by Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd and UAE Minister of Human Resources Saqr Ghobash in Abu Dhabi, the state’s capital.
“The labor agreement between the Philippines and the UAE would greatly benefit the more than 100,000 Emirates-based Filipino workers,” Bello said on Friday.
The UAE, a federation of seven emirates, is home to some 159,000 Filipino migrant workers, the second-biggest next to Saudi Arabia with 238,000 among Middle East countries where bulk of the estimated 2.2 million OFWs are based.
Bello said the MoU would strengthen friendly relations between Manila and Abu Dhabi through cooperative undertakings that promote mutual benefit and provide adequate protection to OFWs.
The key areas of cooperation involve collaborative administration of the contract employment cycle including the use of information technology and exchange of information, strengthening regulations to combat trafficking in persons and regulating recruitment agencies to enforce fair and transparent recruitment practices.
“Transparency to address contract substitution, among others, will be addressed by this agreement,” Bello said.
Under the MoU, an identical job offer and eventual employment contract will be signed by officials of the Philippine and UAE governments.
“This will ensure the effective implementation of the contract,” Bello said.
The MoU provides that the Philippine government shall ensure observance of recruitment laws, procedures and regulations, including physical and mental fitness of workers, as well as the provision of information on laws, policies, norms, cultures and practices in the country and in the UAE.
This compliance includes effective verification of job offers and contracts and assistance to OFWs in distress by the embassy or consulate of the Philippines and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.
Also, the UAE government shall ensure enforcement and implementation of the employment contract and uphold the rights of OFWs.
In the UAE legal system, there is a Labor Code and Law on Domestic Workers that enumerate the rights and entitlements of workers, including OFWs.
The MoU includes an Annex on the Protocol on Domestic Workers that highlights recruitment and admission of OFW domestic workers to the UAE, in accordance with the laws and regulations of both countries.
Among the rights guaranteed under the protocol, through a Standard Employment Contract under the newly-approved UAE Law on Domestic Workers, are: treatment of the worker that preserves personal dignity and physical safety; due payment and non-withholding of wages; provision of 12 hours of daily rest and one full day of weekly rest; decent accommodation; medical treatment; retention of identity documents such as passports; and non-payment of costs for repatriation.
“With the MoU, OFWs in the UAE will have stronger protection, and the firm assurance from both governments that protection will be the first order of the day,” Bello said.