COTABATO CITY: Residents of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) applying for overseas jobs were warned by the region’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) against the direct hiring scheme, urging them to deal instead with legitimate recruitment agencies.
The warning was issued over reports of rampant labor violations committed by employers mostly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Middle East.
Odin Abdula, OWWA-ARMM’s programs and services division head, said workers hired through legitimate agencies are assured of support as parallel efforts of foreign agencies or employers and the government are exerted to address concerns of deployed workers.
Workers are advised to undergo pre-orientation seminar that can be done online even while their papers are still being processed.
“Do not go abroad if [you do not plan to do it]through a legitimate agency. There are agencies whose license to operate are canceled but they are still accepting documents for prospective OFWs,” Abdula said.
The direct hiring scheme, however, prevents Philippine overseas labor officers from immediately responding to problems of workers because of the absence of a legitimate agency.
Stringent labor laws of host countries also confound the labor officers.
Republic Act 8042 as amended by Republic Act 10022, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, protects and promotes the welfare of migrant workers including their families and provides immediate assistance to overseas Filipinos in distress.
Abdula noted that about 90 percent of welfare cases involving overseas household service workers cover maltreatment, sexual and physical abuses, as well as under-payment and non-payment of salaries.
The remaining 10 percent represent skilled or low-skilled company workers’ complaints about illegal termination.
Data obtained from OWWA-ARMM showed that for July 2016, a total of 77 welfare cases involving five male company workers and 72 female household service overseas workers were recorded.
As of August 2016, the number of welfare cases had risen to 152 involving 37 male and 115 female workers.
The increase in the number of cases was a result of a crisis in Saudi Arabia where some companies suffered financial setbacks and resorted to retrenchment.
Affected were 21,700 workers.
Abdula said OWWA-ARMM also assisted four repatriated workers, while 30 families and 29 workers who are also scheduled for repatriation in Saudi Arabia await release of their unpaid salaries and end-of-service benefits.
A P2-billion fund for livelihood under the reintegration program is available for repatriated workers, he added.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL