By Gavin Gibbon
Any lifting will depend on standardised employment contract and justice for murdered worker Jeanelyn Villavende
The Philippines is considered the partial lifting of an employment ban on Filipino workers in Kuwait.
However, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III has revealed any decision to relax the temporary ban will depend heavily on the Kuwaiti government’s actions on cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including that of Jeanelyn Villavende, who was murdered in December last year.
“We have to be contended kung sino yung (who is the) accused. Who have been charged and what is the nature of the charges. Eh kung ang kaso lang ay (If the case is only) homicide, I will not be satisfied by that after seeing the autopsy of… There should be sexual abuse,” Bello said in an interview on Wednesday.
According to a report on the Philippines News Agency, Bello will recommend to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Governing Board the possible partial lifting after the Kuwaiti government has agreed to sign an agreement on the standard employment contract for Filipino household service workers.
The board is set to meet on Thursday.
“If you recall I imposed two conditions: the consensus on the harmonised standardised employment contract plus justice for Ms. Jeanelyn Villevende. These two must be met for us to consider the lifting. Although I am inclined to discuss the possibility of a partial lifting,” he said.
If the ban will be lifted temporarily, Bello said it will not include the household service workers (HSWs).
“Well I am considering recommending to the board the lifting of the ban with respect to semi-skilled, skilled workers, and professionals. And probably, I have not decided on that yet, probably ‘yung balik manggagawa (returning workers). It will not include newly hires,” he said.
On Monday, Bello, Undersecretary Claro Arellano, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) head Hans Leo Cacdac, and POEA chief Bernard Olalia met with Kuwaiti officials and signed a standard employment contract to ensure the welfare and protection of OFWs in the gulf state.
The provisions of the document include prohibition for employers to keep any of the worker’s personal identity documents such as passport, and the entitlement of a worker to own a phone and use it outside the working hours provided that she keeps the secrets and privacy of the household, and use such phone in a manner consistent with public morals.
The OFWs are also entitled to a paid full day per week break and must not work for more than 12 hours a day.
The worker should be allowed to have no less than an hour break after five consecutive hours of work, and the right to at least eight hours of consecutive night rest.
Employers are also prohibited to assign a domestic worker to work outside of the State of Kuwait or be transferred to another employer without the OFWs’ written consent. If this occurs without the agreement of the worker, the worker will be returned to the Philippines at the expense of the employer.
The employer should ensure the OFWs adequate life and is obliged to provide the medical treatment and nursing by registering her in the health system applicable in Kuwait.