ABU DHABI // Filipinos working in the UAE are being offered greater protection with new rules that require recruiters to check on the welfare of people they place in employment.
Companies have also been instructed to submit quarterly reports on workers’ conditions and to report other recruitment agencies and foreign employers that breach the laws.
In December 2006, the Philippine government set a US$400 (Dh1,469) minimum monthly wage as part of a reform package for household workers.
But some employers have resorted to “paper compliance”, agreeing to the terms in a contract but paying the worker a reduced wage.
The new rules hope to change this situation, said Hans Cacdac, head of the Philippine overseas employment administration, Poea, in Manila, an agency of the labour department.
Recruiters must immediately notify Manila if a worker dies, is injured, is jailed, goes missing or absconds.
The report must be made within five days of the incident.
“Recruitment agencies should not only report incidents but also assign officers to man their welfare desks,” Mr Cacdac said.
“We are strongly urging them to assign a welfare officer or counsellor at the job site where at least 100 domestic workers have been deployed. They need to monitor and provide welfare assistance to these workers.”
Baiking Mldtimbang, 26, from Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, welcomed the news.
Ms Mldtimbang, who earns Dh1,000 a month and does not get a weekly day off, said a welfare officer could help to ensure that maids were not paid less than the minimum wage and were treated fairly.
Since March last year, recruiters of domestic workers have been required to have their own official Facebook accounts for monitoring purposes.
“We are now highlighting the fact that recruitment agencies are participating in an economic activity that’s of high public interest,” Mr Cacdac said.
“The protection of vulnerable workers is an obligation that should translate into something concrete and is exemplified in the welfare officer and welfare desk requirement.”
Those who fail to comply face a possible suspension of their licence or a fine.
Myrna Lazaro, 42, who works for an Emirati family in Khalifa City, said household workers should be protected against physical abuse, unpaid salaries and other mistreatment.
“I’ve been with the family for five years and they treat me well,” she said. “But abused maids need all the help they can get.”
Lito Soriano, chief executive of LBS Recruitment Solutions in Manila, said it would be costly for companies in the Philippine capital to send a welfare officer overseas.
“Who will pay for the air fare, accommodation and salary?” Mr Soriano asked. “That would be very expensive. What we can do is to enter into an agreement with an agency in Abu Dhabi for them to provide a Filipino staff who can man the welfare desk.”
He has 30 years of experience in the industry and said he had no objections submitting quarterly reports and notifying the Poea about unscrupulous agencies and abusive employers.
“I only have an issue with the five-day reporting system,” he said. “Embassies are usually the first to know about incidents involving their nationals. We can notify the Poea only after being informed about such incidents.”
Talks with licensed recruitment agencies to address concerns will be held this month, Mr Cacdac said.
Source: uae news