Warnings issued as ban on Filipino helpers looms

September 26, 2011

Kuwait-based Filipinos on vacation could be held up in Manila if the ban on the Filipino domestic helpers is imposed, a Philippines-based recruitment agency official visiting Kuwait has said.

According to Miriam Mondragon, Vice-President of the Philippine Association of Licensed Agency to Kuwait (Philack), the law in the Philippines stipulates that if a country does not comply with any of the three stipulations mentioned in the Philippine Migrant Act law, “there will be no excuses.”

“Everybody, including those who are already in Kuwait but are now vacationing in Manila, could possibly be held up there,” she said. “This is according to our law and we cannot do anything about it if the law is imposed,” she told Kuwait Times daily.

The Philippines has recently announced its readiness to implement a law that bars the recruitment of domestic helpers in the Middle East countries, including Kuwait and the UAE, citing Republic Act (RA) 10022 or the Migrant Workers Act.

Mondragon said, Kuwait partially complied with the RA 10022.

“They are only qualified in semi and skilled workers but not in the domestic help sector,” she said.

Mondragon said that the Philippines demand that concerns of domestic workers be included in the labour law.

Domestic helpers include housemaids, family drivers, family cooks, gardeners, personal nurses.

Of the 160,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, 75,000 are engaged in domestic help jobs.

Kuwait and the Philippines do not have a bilateral labour agreement, but have signed a so-called Mutual Labor Agreement or the Memorandum of Agreement between in 1991.

“We do not share a bilateral labour agreement. It was a mutual agreement to provide Kuwait with the workforce needed right after the war in 1991,” she said.

Mondragon expressed full support for the new Kuwaiti labour law that will benefit both the employers and workers and expressed hope that Kuwait would be able to draft and subsequently enact the domestic labour law soon.

“We are here to voice our concern on the matter. We do not want to lose our business with Kuwait. The Philippine government is not allowed to interfere in their domestic affairs because it is their internal issue. Our group is here to appeal for immediate action,” she said.

“Anyway, we are benefiting from the deployment of domestic workers. We came here on our own expense to personally appeal to their government to act accordingly. This is on the issue of hastening the passage of the domestic labour law offers the full protection and welfare of our Household Service Workers. Without this, the Act will be implemented and we are afraid it will come soon. The ball is in the hand of the Kuwaitis,” she said.
Mondragon told Kuwait Times that the law could be possibly imposed in a matter of hours or days.

“We do not know yet when, but it will be soon. We do not know either the implications for both countries, but I think there will be repercussions. I hope it will be minimal. What we see at the level of domestic helpers, those who are vacationing in the Philippines for example could be affected. Maybe they will not be able to return to Kuwait anymore unless the Philippines clearly clarifies/defines the section [of the law] with regard to returning workers,” she said.

Should the ban be imposed it will drastically affect especially the domestic helpers who are earning money and helping their families by working abroad.

“We have approximately 30,000 domestic helpers entering Kuwait annually and we barely have one per cent problems out of the total. This means the huge percentage enjoys good treatment at the hands of their employers. What is being capitalized, as we all know, are some abuses, rape cases and maltreatment; these certainly matter. We care for our workers,” she said.

Mondragon said that the minimum salary imposed by Manila is fair.

“Kuwait and other countries should know that we are no longer in the 1980s. Do not compare the salary that was paid 15 to 20 years ago with the present time. We have to adjust the salary and I personally support the $400. The time has changed drastically and the cost of living everywhere has skyrocketed,” she said.

Mondragon’s group has met with Kuwaiti officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour as well as with Adnan Al Mutawa, the lawmaker sponsoring the domestic labour law.

“We spoke to them and they are keen on cooperating with us. As they stressed, they have a pending bill at the National Assembly that has not been deliberated yet. I see they are willing to cooperate and ready to enact the domestic labour law,” she said.

The ban will be placed in accordance with Migrant Workers Act ‘RA 8042 of 1995,’ a bill that was dormant, but was amended in 2009 and signed by then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as RA 10022, Kuwait Times said.

“We are in the implementation phase. If Kuwait wants to continue hiring Filipino workers, our law is clear that this will happen only when conditions are met. They should evaluate or report periodically or provide the Philippines with a positive report about the progress of the prevailing law,” she said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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