SEN. Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros pressed concerned authorities in the Marcos administration to promptly mount a no nonsense crackdown against perpetrators of “misleading contracts” of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan.
The senator prodded officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to rescind misleading contracts signed by OFWs bound for Taiwan.
In a dialogue with OFWs in Taipei, the employees reported “there are many inconsistencies between the contracts they signed with their recruiters in Manila, compared with the ‘Affidavits for Wage /Salary and Expenses,’ which are the contracts they signed with their employers in Taiwan.”
The Senator also noted that “although many OFWs do not encounter this problem, those who do had to endure abuse and exploitation by their employers.”
The dialogue was attended by OFWs from various parts of Taiwan, such as Taipei, Taichung, Taoyuan, Tainan, Hsinchu, Kaohsiung, and other.
“Ayon mismo sa ating mga kababayan, hindi nagtutugma ang mga detalye ng dalawa nilang pinipirmahan para makapagtrabaho sa Taiwan. Misleading ang mga nakasaad. ’Yung job description, day off, rest day, oras ng trabaho, at maging ang sweldo, hindi pareho. Kaya pagdating nila doon, nalilito sila. Yung iba, nagtitiis hanggang makahanap ng bagong malilipatang employer. Ang malala, may ibang naaabuso at napipilitang magpa—”shelter” o magpakupkop muna sa mga kababayan natin sa Taiwan [According to our compatriots, the details in the contract didn’t match; the statements were misleading. The job description, day off, rest day, work hours, and even the salary, are not the same. So when they get there, they are confused. The rest endure until they find a new employer to move to. The worst part is that others are abused and forced to “shelter” or take refuge with our compatriots in Taiwan],” she said.
It was also noted that “to be a foreign worker in Taiwan, an OFW must sign an “Affidavit for Wage/Salary and Expenses,” which is also signed by labor brokers and the employer, “meant to protect the OFW against unfavorable conditions.”
However, Hontiveros believes “unscrupulous recruiters have found a loophole that enables the exploitation of many Filipinos.”
For instance, she noted that “many of our migrants who applied and trained in Manila as caregivers ended up being farmers of pinyin or betel nuts (ngangà), which the workers say is “backbreaking work.”
Hontiveros added: “Gigising sila ng alas-kwatro ng umaga para umakyat sa bundok kung nasaan ang farm ng nganga. Pagdating doon buong araw ang trabaho, lampas sa nakatakda sa kontrata nila. May isa tayong OFW, mag-isa lang syang manggagawa sa farm ng employer niya. Siya ang gumagawa ng lahat. Mayroon ding mga kaso na hindi pinagda-day off ng employer, bawal din daw mag-rest day. Marami din ang hindi sumusweldo nang tama. Napakahirap ng pinagdaanan nila [They wake up at four in the morning to climb the mountain where the nganga farm is. When they got there, they worked all day, beyond what was stipulated in their contract. There’s one OFW who’s the only worker in his employer’s farm. He does everything. There are also cases where the employer doesn’t allow them to take a day off, it is also forbidden to take a rest day. Many are also not paid correctly. They went through so much trouble].”
Due to the stunning revelations, the senator is now calling on the concerned authorities “to check on possible ambiguities and inadequacies in all contracts signed by aspiring OFWs.”
“Nakikipagsapalaran ang mga OFWs para sa mas magandang buhay. Yun pala, lalo lang nadadagdagan ang problema nila. Dapat maimbestigahan kung bakit pumipirma ang mga kababayan natin ng kontratang hindi katulad ng kontratang hawak ng boss nila [OFWs venture for a better life. By the way, their problem only increases. It should be investigated why our countrymen are signing a contract that is not the same as the contract held by their boss],” she stressed.
Moreover, OFWs also disclosed to Hontiveros that parts of their skills training in Manila are unnecessary for their job description, suggesting that the fees for these training must be reviewed. The senator was also informed that the workers were “required to pay as much as P150,000 pesos for training, medical tests, placement fees, and many other burdensome expenses.”
“Sa ating mga OFWs sa Taiwan, pangako po, ipaparating natin sa kinauukulan ang inyong mga hinaing, at sisiguraduhin nating may aksyon. Hindi tayo magsasawang ipaglaban ang karapatan ng ating mga kababayang nakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa. Sagrado ang ating mga karapatan bilang mga manggagawa at pantao. Mula recruitment, hanggang makapag-trabaho na kayo, hanggang sa inyong pag-uwi, itataguyod natin ang kapakanan ng Pilipinong manggagawa [To our OFWs in Taiwan, I promise, we will convey your grievances to the appropriate authorities, and we will make sure that action is taken. We will never tire of fighting for the rights of our countrymen who venture abroad. Our rights as workers and human beings are sacred. From recruitment, until you are able to work, until you return home, we will promote the welfare of the Filipino worker],” the senator said.
Image credits: Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB