The government scored a victory in promoting the welfare of migrant workers following an agreement with the United Arab Emirates enhancing the cooperation of the two countries for the protection of overseas Filipino workers.

In a Memorandum of Understanding on Labor Cooperation, both countries agreed to strengthen friendly relations through cooperative undertakings that promote mutual benefit and provide adequate protection to OFWs.

The agreement was signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and UAE Minister of Human Resources Saqr Ghobash in Abu Dhabi recently.

The key areas of cooperation involve collaborative administration of the contract employment cycle including the use of information technology and exchange of information, strengthening regulations to combat trafficking in persons, and regulation of recruitment agencies to enforce fair and transparent recruitment practices.

Transparency to address contract substitution, among others, will be addressed by this agreement, Bello said.

Under the MOU, an identical job offer and eventual employment contract will be signed by officials of the Philippines and UAE governments. This will ensure the effective implementation of the contract, Bello said.

The MOU provides that the Philippine government shall ensure observance of recruitment laws, procedures, and regulations, including physical and mental fitness of workers, as well as the provision of information on laws, policies, norms, cultures, and practices in the country and in UAE. This includes effective verification of job offers and contracts, and assistance to OFWs in distress by the embassy, consulate, and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

For its part, the UAE government shall ensure enforcement and implementation of the employment contract and uphold the rights of OFWs. In the UAE legal system, there is a Labor Code and Law on Domestic Workers that enumerate the rights and entitlements of workers, including OFWs.

The MOU includes an Annex on the Protocol on Domestic Workers that highlights recruitment and admission of OFW domestic workers to the UAE, in accordance with the laws and regulations of both countries.

Among the rights guaranteed under the Protocol, through a Standard Employment Contract under newly-approved UAE Law on Domestic Workers, are: treatment of the worker that preserves personal dignity and physical safety; due payment and non-withholding of wages; 12 hours of daily rest; one full day of weekly rest; decent accommodation; medical treatment; retention of identity documents such as passports; and non-payment of costs for repatriation.

With the MOU, OFWs in the UAE will have stronger protection, and the firm assurance from both governments that protection will be the first order of the day, Bello said.

Source: Department Of Labor and Employment Republic of Philippines