Category Archives: Domestic Work

Filipino workers among the most at risk anywhere in the world – SENTRO

Despite assurances of protection from local and national laws, including international agreements, Filipino workers are living the most perilous time in their own country and in almost all other countries they are working as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said over the weekend.

In its annual global report released last week, the International Trade Union Confederation has placed the Philippines and the majority of countries where OFWs are eking their living, under category five, which is a rating for the worst countries in the world to work in.

The report said that, “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.”

“What is notable in this report is that the Philippines is included in a long list of countries whose current regimes do not actively respect workers’ rights. Hence, despite the existence of national law and being signatories to international laws on labor, the workers’ safety and protection of their rights are not guaranteed,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro.

According to Mata, these include Bahrain, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates which are all major destinations for OFWs, “which means Filipino workers are really screwed up in and outside of their country.”

“The problem is, our own government do have the moral ascendancy to demand rights for our workers abroad when the Philippine government itself can’t protect its own citizens,” Mata explained. “It can’t even guarantee the fundamental rights of its own workers in its home country,” Mata added.

Another notable aspect of the report is that it included the Philippines as one of the top 10 worst countries in the world for the workers, saying “in a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines faced threats and intimidation.”

SENTRO suffered the first trade union killing under the administration of Mr. Duterte when Lando Abangan, a trade union and community organizer, was gunned down in Naga, Cebu, last 17 September 2016. Several other trade union and peasant leaders have been killed since then.

The greatest challenge Filipino workers are facing explained Mata, “is the destruction of the collective bargaining capacities of unions through violent reprisals against workers union-building capacities and the weakening of the labor movement in general by not regularizing the workers thus preventing the workers from joining labor movement.”

So long as trade union killings remain unresolved, so long as employers can abuse contractualization, the violent repression of workers’ rights in the country will continue with impunity.

“Mr. Duterte should now realize the folly of listening to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) when he issued EO 51. Rather than realize his campaign promise to end contractualization, the issuance only further legitimized the problem,” Mata said. “This will ensure that the Philippines will maintain next year its notorious distinction as one of the top ten worst countries for workers to work in,” Mata also added.

Sentro’s statement on issues of domestic workers in Kuwait

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) shares the jubilation of hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for the recent positive development in the diplomatic row between the Kuwaiti and the Philippine governments.

As part of the resolution, the Kuwaiti government announced last 9 May 2018 that the concerns of all migrant domestic workers will henceforth be handled by the Labor Department. In other words, migrant domestic workers will now be considered as workers!

This is a major victory for more than half a million migrant domestic workers in Kuwaiti, including Filipinos. It is the culmination of years of work by SANDIGAN, together with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“We are very pleased with the Kuwaiti government’s decision,” Mary Ann Abunda, head of SANDIGAN, said. “We could not have done it without the help of the KTUF,” she added.

SANDIGAN, a Filipino migrant rights advocacy group in Kuwait, was one of the first to raise the red flag of alarm when a group of media-attention-hungry Philippine officials staged a ‘heroic’ rescue operation for several OFWs. Rather than promote the protection of OFWs, their brazenness actually endangered the lives of OFWs in Kuwait.

SENTRO commends all the OFWs who had petitioned both the Philippine and the Kuwaiti governments to resolve the issue at the earnest, and kudos to the individuals from both parties who work silently to resolve the case, far from the media limelight.

SENTRO also commends the Kuwait government for its part in the solution and the tacit admittance that it needs the skills, intelligence, and caring hands of the OFWs.

“The decision of the Kuwaiti government is definitely a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done, Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, said.

SENTRO urges the Kuwaiti government to abolish the dreaded ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to abuse.

At the same time, SENTRO is calling on the Philippine government to intensify the effort of securing memorandum of agreements with other countries, particularly in the Middle East, to protect the rights and welfare Filipino migrant workers.

This is essentially the responsibility and reason for being of the various Philippine consular and diplomatic offices scattered all over the planet—to protect their own citizens, and not to conspire with foreign and local agencies and individuals for monetary and other purposes.

Finally, SENTRO urges the government to develop an industrial policy that would ensure regular and decent work for all in the country and institute a re-integration program. Then and only then can we make migration as real choice for our workers.

Organized labor welcomes launching of ‘kasambahay’ federation

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LOCAL domestic workers or kasambahays have bonded together by launching the federation United Domestic Workers of the Philippines (UNITED) to ensure that their rights are followed and that they have humane working conditions, which are all stipulated in two landmark laws passed by the government in the past three years.

Almost 200 kasambahays formally established the UNITED in its founding assembly held today at the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, which was highlighted by the ratification of their Constitution and by-laws as well as the election and induction of the federation officers.

The founding delegates came from four area association chapters – Murphy, Sitio Veterans, Payatas and Roxas District, all in Quezon City – that were organized first as a quasi-cooperative that encourages members to regularly allocate a portion of their salary to save in a bank.

Though not yet a full-fledged trade union, UNITED could be considered a milestone in the efforts to organize all types of workers, including those in the informal sector that are not only highly scattered but mostly work as contractuals or have occasional jobs, the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), said.

“Newly organized workers, whether in unions or associations or cooperatives, are always a cause for celebration, more so if they come from a sector long known or deemed as ‘unorganizable,’” SENTRO added.

Further motivating the organizing of the kasambahays was when the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 189 (C189) or the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” was signed by Malacañang on May 18, 2012 and approved by the Senate on the following Aug. 6, making the Philippines the second country in the world – after Uruguay in June that year – to ratify this groundbreaking social legislation.

Adopted during the ILO’s 100th International Conference last June 16, 2012, the C189 and its supplementary Recommendation 201 (R201) finally and formally recognized the rights of all domestic workers by formulating a new global standard for protecting them, especially the migrant domestic workers or those who work abroad.

C189’s “local counterpart” followed soon, when the different “kasambahay bills” of the Senate and House of Representatives were consolidated in Nov. 2012 and enacted into law when Malacañang signed it on Jan. 18, 2013 as the Republic Act (RA) No. 10361 or “An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers.”

Commonly called “Kasambahay Law,” RA 10361 intends to provide basic labor rights and legal protection to almost 2 million domestic workers in the country or those working in private households as all-around househelp, children’s nanny or yaya, nurse-maid or sort of a caregiver to elderlies, cook, gardener, laundryperson, cleaner, errand boy/girl, etc.

Government data show that the country’s domestic workers (DWs) have grown from 1.2 million in 2001 to about 1.9 million in 2010. Likewise, it is believed that an overwhelming majority of them are women or young girls.

According to the ILO report “Domestic workers across the world” released in Jan. 2013, most of the DWs in the Philippines are “overworked and underpaid.” In 2010, they work an average of 52 hours a week, the 7th longest among 39 countries surveyed by the ILO, and “higher than the globally accepted statutory limits on working time of 40 and 48 hours a week.”

Majority of the kasambahays are also poorly paid with a national average equal to merely “43.8 percent of the average incomes of the country’s total paid workers,” placing the Philippines to No. 11 among 22 surveyed countries with the widest wage gap for domestic workers.

Aside from hard work, low salaries and virtually zero benefits, many kasambahays also suffer from various forms of maltreatment, including verbal abuse, physical violence and sexual assaults.

As early as 2013, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), while lauding the passage of C189 and RA 10361, has stated that to guarantee their full implementation and to raise further the rights of the kasambahays, they must eventually organize into associations or unions.

The domestic workers’ organizations should of course be integrated sooner or later into the mainstream trade union or labor movement, added the APL, a SENTRO member.

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Stop Violence Against Domestic Workers! Respect Migrant Workers’ Rights!

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To mark today’s International Migrants Day, almost a hundred Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong belonging to the Progressive Labor Union (PLU-SENTRO-IDWF) trooped to the consulates of various migrant sending countries and the Hong Kong Central Government Offices.

Joining the Filipino trade unionists in picketing the consulates of the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal, as well as the HKCGO, were members of the Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR), Federation of Asian Domestic Workers’ Unions (FADWU) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

“For far too long, migrant workers, particularly migrant domestic workers, continue to toil under slave-like conditions,” Sheila Estrada, chairperson of PLU, said, urging for “enough of violence, enough of discrimination, it is high time for migrant workers everywhere to be respected as workers, as human beings.”

Around 3 percent or 320,000 of the Hong Kong population is composed of foreign domestic workers, in which 50 percent are from the Philippines, 47 percent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The rally highlighted the call for all countries to ratify and fully implement Convention No. 189 (Decent Work for Domestic Workers) of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

In addition, the PLU called on the Philippine government to live up to its promise of ensuring that migration would truly be just one – not the primary – of the many employment options of the Filipinos.

“President Aquino is at the homestretch of his 6-year term, and yet we haven’t seen any policy change that would ensure full employment in the Philippines,” Estrada said.

“Instead of jobs creation, what we see is the continuing destruction of decent and regular jobs, where various forms of precarious work becoming more prevalent, even among public sector workers,” she added.

The PLU said that as long as there is no full and decent employment in the Philippines and its much-vaunted economic growth continues to fail to generate the much-needed quality jobs, millions of Filipinos would be forced to seek the proverbial greener pastures abroad.

PLU is an affiliate of the domestic workers’ union under the HKCTU as well as the global union International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). On the other hand, PLU’s mother organization in the Philippines is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).