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Pact between UAE, Philippines on Filipino workers a ‘historic model’

A migrant specialist in the Gulf since 2010 has welcomed and hailed the commitment and dedication of the UAE and Philippine governments in addressing concerns surrounding household service workers (HSWs), resulting in the implementation of a progressive bilateral labour agreement whereby Filipino domestic workers would be re-deployed to the UAE beginning April 1.

Implying that this progressive bilateral labour agreement is a historic model, Rights Corridor managing director/International Labour Organisation-Migration Advisory Group Regional Office (Beirut) member Froilan Malit Jr. was hopeful this would “in the future” be embraced and carried out “for other domestic workers within their own legal systems in the UAE.”

Malit shared his views with Gulf Today late on Tuesday evening, hours after the state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) and state-owned Emirates News Agency (WAM) released their respective reports on the conclusions of the March 1 and 2 virtual Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) in Manila. PNA quoted Department of Labour and Employment Undersecretary Claro Arellano, Philippine Delegation JCM head. WAM quoted Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation-Ministry for Human Resources Affairs Undersecretary Saif Al Suwaidi, UAE Delegation JCM head. The deployment of Filipino HSWs to the UAE had been suspended since 2014. But both governments never wavered in resolving issues concerning this vulnerable sector. Consequently, JCMs were held twice in 2018 alongside side meetings from international summits such as in 2019.

Malit, the Gulf Migrants specialist at Cambridge University, classified the developments as “very, very important” for people such as “researchers, policy makers, and the diplomats coming and working closely together to close migrant vulnerabilities.” He stressed the accord could be duplicated across the region and elsewhere.

Among the behind-the-scene players at the periodic Abu Dhabi Dialogue (between 11 Asian labour-sending states and the Gulf labour-receiving countries), Malit said: “The recent bilateral labour agreement between the Philippine and UAE governments reflects an exceptional progress in guaranteeing and protecting the rights of the Filipino domestic workers in the UAE. It has both a symbolic and practical value between the states. For the Philippine government,  it reflects the strong commitment and leadership of our government to address the vulnerabilities of the Filipino domestic workers who come legally or irregularly to the UAE, across the Gulf and Asia. It also reflects the strong commitment and responsibility of not only our President (Rodrigo Duterte) but also the hard work of all our officials, officers and their staff at our embassy, consulate general, and the labour office where the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is also located, here in the UAE. For the UAE, the bilateral agreement is certainly a great step in terms of recognising and embodying the new rights for Filipino domestic workers and hopefully in the future for other domestic workers within their own legal systems in the UAE.”

“Now, this bilateral labour agreement is also in line with the UAE’s long-term economic aim to create a more robust labour market governance in the field of domestic work,” Malit also said.

He pointed our that both the Philippines and the UAE “have now more institutional responsibilities” such as in the area of monitoring to make sure that what had been agreed upon from the JCMs – more rights for the HSWs – are fully observed and implemented.

PNA quoted Arellano as saying “the measure will now be covered by a Unified Employment Contract that provides stringent measures to protect Filipino HSWs (right to keep Philippine passport and other identification cards, eight hours of continuous sleep at night, own bank account for her salary, possession of mobile phone and other communication devices which the employer could not confiscate, right to a full day off, right to cook her own food), pursuant to the directives of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.” The Philippine Labour Offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi must be immediately notified in cases of visit visa conversion to employment visa. Moreover, employers as well as the foreign recruitment agencies and their partner Philippine recruitment agencies are bound in the strictest sense as liable should anything happen to the HSW.

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