THE Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) will soon enforce a one-strike policy for erring recruitment agencies and employers under its simplified land-based deployment policy.
On Thursday, DMW Secretary Maria Susan V. Ople signed the department circular for the new rules and regulations on the recruitment and employment of land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The issuance, a result of DMW’s stakeholder consultations, updated the 2016 deployment rules of the now defunct Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to “demystify and simplify” its provisions.
From 77 pages in the 2016 rules, Ople said they reduced it to just 44 with simplified language using a rights-based approach as well as fair and ethical recruitment principle .
She said they opted to scrap the three-strike policy in the previous rules since it was being abused by some unscrupulous agencies to avoid sanctions.
Under the new rules, a recruitment agency may now face the cancellation of its license, which will effectively lead to its closure, if it is found to have committed one of the 20 “cardinal sins.”
The list of serious offences include the deployment of minor or a worker below the minimum age requirement; engaging in acts of gross misrepresentation for the purpose of license renewal; reprocessing workers through non-existent or erroneous job orders; reprocessing workers using job orders from another agency; engaging in the recruitment or placement of workers in harmful jobs; changing ownership or control of a single proprietorship licensed to engage in overseas employment.
Also listed as a cardinal sin are: if an official of the recruitment agency becomes a member of the Board of any corporation or partnership engaged in the management of a travel agency; deploying workers with travel documentsa which were not processed by DMW; allowing non-Filipino citizen to head or manage a licensed recruitment agency; allowing foreign recruitment agency, principal, or employer to own and/or participate in the management and/or operations of licensed Philippine recruitment agency; deploying a worker recruited by a foreigner; allowing agents unauthorized by DMW to recruit; charging or collecting placement fees in countries, which prohibit the said practice; passing to the workers fees and costs, which should be chargeable to employers.
Rounding up the so-called recruitment-related “mortal sins” are refusing or unreasonably failing to act on any request for aid from workers, which leads to death, abuse or psychological impairment; contract substitution without the approval of DMW; requiring overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to undergo health examinations, seminars, instructions or schooling to a specific institutions, which may impose additional costs to the applicant; requiring an OFW to avail of loans from a specific institution; engaging in human trafficking; and engaging on graft and corrupt practices.
DMW Undersecretary Bernard P. Olalia noted cancellations of licenses can no longer be reversed. The officials of the erring agency will also be permanently banned from putting up a new recruitment agency.
Recruitment rules violations, which are not included in the list, will be deemed light violations, which can result in license suspension lasting six months to one year.
However, recidivist recruitment agencies engaged in habitual light infractions can also face license suspension or cancellation, according to Olalia.
Despite the stricter rules, recruitment agencies welcome the reform since it can help in weeding out their erring members.
“It will help ensure only the good ones [recruitment agencies] will remain, which are for the protection and welfare of our OFWs will remain,” Philippine Employment Agencies & Associates for Corporate Employers in Middle East Inc. (PEACEME) president Arnold Mamaclay said in an interview with reporters.
For her part, Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc. (PASEI) President Raquel Espina-Bracero said the new rules help improve the public image of their sector.
“As an owner of an agency, you will be extra careful with your operations with the new one-strike regulation. It will also allow us to police our ranks,” Bracero said.
Aside from the standardized penalty structure, the rules also contain other provisions, which includes requiring licensed recruitment agencies to employ a full-time and trained Welfare Desk Officer (WEDO) to monitor OFWs abroad.
It also allows DMW to regulate the accommodations of recruitment agencies for its workers and extend the validity of licenses for recruitment agencies.
The validity period of provisional licenses is from two years to three years, while the validity of a regular license has been extended to six years from the previous four-year period.
The escrow deposit of recruitment agencies for contract violations of their OFWs has also been increased from P1 million to P1.5 million.
Another reform is the DMW’s shortened process-cycle time from 15 days to seven to 10 days on onsite accreditation and verification in its Migrant Workers Offices (MWO) overseas.
Bracero said they may recommend possible changes in the new rules once it is fully reviewed by their members.
Ople assured they are open to possible amendments in the new rules based on feedback of stakeholders.
She said they will also release separate updated deployment rules for sea-based OFWs in the coming months.
Image credits: PNA file photo