CITING economic reasons, hundreds of skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the total deployment ban to Kuwait have appealed to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd to exempt them from the ban and allow them to leave immediately so as not to lose their jobs.
In a dialogue over the weekend at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office in Manila, the affected workers, which included first time workers and returning old timers who signed contracts with different employers, said that they were not household service workers (HSWS) or domestic helpers (DH) but company workers, and were amply protected by Kuwait labor laws.
The workers appealed to Bello to limit the ban to HSWS or DHs, the most abused workers not only in Kuwait but in other Middle East countries as well.
Administrative Order (AO) N0.54A, which sets the guidelines on the implementation of total deployment to Kuwait, covers all types of workers being deployed for the first time for overseas employment in Kuwait, without distinction as to skill, profession, or type of work.
Exempted are Balik-Manggagawa or the OFWs who are vacationing in the Philippines and will be returning to the same employer to finish their contacts, at the end of his/her vacation; and OFWs who are returning to Kuwait on a new contract with the same employer.
Also exempted are seafarers who will be transiting through or boarding in Kuwait to join their principals.
Some of the workers claimed that they were already knee-deep in debts while the others have already sold their properties, adding that they need to leave before their visas expire or their employers would replace them with workers from other countries.
These skilled workers are oil and gas engineers, IT professionals, nurses, medical and laboratory technicians, store mangers, sales personnel, communication technicians, maintenance personnel electricians, plumbers, and carpenters who have been issued visas and are just awaiting their plane tickers from their employers.
But Bello has remained steadfast and instead appealed for understanding, saying that it is his responsibility to ensure the safety and interest of Filipino workers, regardless of whether they are HSWs or skilled workers.
“We are appealing for your understanding. We need to ensure first the safety of all Filipino workers through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will give added protection to Filipino workers,” he added.
According to Bello, the Kuwait government is very receptive to the MOU and have signified its willingness to sign it by next month after the Philippines and Kuwait panels discussed the merits of the proposed labor policy, which will prohibit the confiscation of the passports and mobile phones of Filipino workers.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the deployment ban more than two weeks ago following the discovery of the body of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina domestic helper, inside a freezer in an unoccupied apartment unit in Kuwait.
Prior to that, the DOLE also ordered the probe on the cause of death of seven other Filipino household workers who died in Kuwait.