Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 28, 2009

Dialogue gives distressed OFWs in Jeddah a glimpse of what caused their ordeal
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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Representatives from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the recruitment sector on Friday warned aspiring overseas Filipino workers against the illegal practice of sending workers under a job order that is different from the post they would actually get.

OWWA officials and Philippine Association of Exporters Inc. (Pasei) president Victor E. Fernandez Jr. recently engaged distressed OFWs and representatives of community groups in Jeddah in a dialogue and discussed the problems that stranded domestic helpers are currently facing, specifically the phenomenon of the “repro" or the “reprocess."Fernandez explained that reprocessing means using a particular job order to recruit a worker but giving the worker a different job when in the work place. For instance, while many Filipino women are recruited as dressmakers or dishwashers, they will actually be made to work as domestic helpers.

After Fernandez explained the practice during the dialogue, many of the distressed OFWs said it seemed that they were “repro" victims.“Most of the stranded workers under our care right now are victims of reprocessing," Welfare Officer Nini Lanto said.

She said that the practice has to stop so that problems in deployment and the number of runaway workers will decrease.Lanto also reminded OWWA to fix this problem because the ones who suffer from this kind of practice are the workers.

On the other hand, the distressed OFWs also complained of the exorbitant fees charged by their agencies like the terminal fee, visa payment, and extra cash to speed up their applications.

In addition, they said their agency threatened them that they will have to pay P100,000 or else will be sent to jail if they do not finish their contracts.An insurance for OFWsMeanwhile, Fernandez told the workers that a welfare insurance for them has already been proposed to the House of Representatives and the Senate.Under it, workers will receive life and accident insurance, repatriation insurance, repatriation, burial claims, dismemberment insurance, at insurance for terrorist attacks, plus subsistence allowance of $100 or about P5,000 for those who file cases against their employer.

He said that workers do not need to pay anything because their agency will do it for them, making this proposed insurance a “win-win" situation.

“No cost for the government at no cost for the workers kami ang magbabayad nito para sa kapakanan ng manggagawa at pag naisabatas ito ay mapapakinabangan talaga ito ng ating mga OFWs," he said.[No cost for the government and no cost for the workers, we will pay for the welfare of the worker, OFWs will definitely benefit when this is passed into law]

OWWA membershipHe did, however, remind the workers not to forget to pay for their OWWA membership so that they will be able to avail of the agency’s services if ever they encounter any problem abroad. Fernandez added that it is the obligation of every worker to pay his or her contribution because this is also for their own good.

“Hindi natin dapat isipin na hindi natin kailangan yan dahil wala naman mangyayari sa atin, mali po yan dahil anumang oras ay pwedeng mangyari sa isang tao ang magkroon ng problema kaya dapat lang na maging handa tayo anumang oras," he said.[We shouldn’t dismiss these things right away, it’s wrong to think that nothing bad will happen, anytime anything can happen to a person so one should always be prepared]

Pre-employment seminarFernandez also took if only the government considers conducting pre-employment seminars (PEOS) rather than the least useful pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS), there could be fewer Filipino workers falling victim to illegal recruiters.He said a PEOS is also more useful because it could give jobseekers a better basis to make an intelligent decision on whether or not to work abroad.

“During the PDOS, a worker’s mind is already focused on leaving the country because by that time he or she has already spent a lot of time, effort and money applying for a job. In PEOS, a worker may intelligently back off from applying for a particular work place if he/she is informed of the risks involved," Fernandez explained.

Lanto also said that workers are usually “disempowered" after attending PDOS, because workers are only told what will happen to them if they do something wrong and not what their rights are.“Ang PDOS talaga is meant to inform the workers of their right [The PDOS is meant to inform the workers of their right]," she said.

She added that workers feel that they are alone and have no one to turn to when they arrive at their jobsites abroad.On the question of recruitment agencies policing their own ranks, Fernandez said Pasei can only plead with, convince or persuade its member agencies to abide by the law and to help protect the workers they recruit, but the organization cannot do anything about illegal recruitment practitioners who are not their members. - GMANews.TV

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