Labor Relations –
PH Embassy in Singapore ready to protect OFWs

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore assured Filipinos working in neighboring Southeast Asian countries that its office will be ready to accommodate them in times of distress.

“As I said, we, the Philippine embassy is open, our doors are open to any suggestion or feedback that our kababayans may have and that we have a very dedicated staff here or people dedicated in the assistance to National Section as well as in our Philippine Overseas Labor Office, POLO,” Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap said.

“So we stand ready to carry out the mandate of the government as well as the instruction of the president and we take the utmost care, the best care of our OFWs here,” he added.

Yap noted there are around 180,000 Filipinos living and working in Singapore, wherein 60 percent of this number have professional work, while the remaining are domestic workers.

“Already, you can see the Singapore society looks on the Filipinos as contributors to their national development, that we, at 180,000, we are roughly maybe 4 percent of their population,” Yap said.

“Yap stressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are considered to have a positive effect on Singapore’s economy.

“They perform a lot of functions that are very much needed in Singapore. And then the skilled workers, they work in hotels, in restaurants, so they also provide very important functions. And even our domestic workers I think, both of them are recognized as much — at a much better level worker than other nationalities,” he said.

Yap even assured that Singapore continues to uphold policies to protect the right of foreign workers.

“If they are being mistreated, if they are not being fed properly, they are not given their day off, they can complain and the police or the manpower department will come and investigate and of course, the embassy itself is always ready to assist them and we always support them when they have these types of complaints,” he said.

DOLE finds job opportunities in Russia for Filipino workers

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has started to craft an agreement to explore job opportunities in Russia for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The agency formed a technical working group (TWG) which would facilitate the creation of job deal between Russia and the Philippines.

“Negotiations with Russian Federation are ongoing and Russia is one of our alternative markets for our Filipino workers who still wish to be deployed overseas,” he said in a statement dated April 25.

“There is a demand for construction and household service workers in Russia,” he added.

The group was tasked to establish a program of activities for series of policy consultation between Manila and Moscow. It will also lead the orientation of Russian employers and recruitment agencies about Philippine laws governing the deployment of OFWs.

It was also assigned to meet with the DOLE and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) counterparts in Russia to further discuss policies for the protection and welfare of Filipino workers.

Likewise, they will provide inputs and recommendations relative to the deployment of workers in Russia and bilateral labor agreement (BLA) negotiations for consideration of the DOLE BLA Steering Committee.

OFW deal with Kuwait to be signed before Ramadan – Cayetano

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the welfare of Filipinos working in Kuwait is expected to be signed in the Philippines before Ramadan.

This was disclosed by the Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano after addressing the issue of “illegal rescue operation” of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.

Cayetano said the Kuwaiti government remains eager to push through with the signing of the MOU.

“In fact they’re following up on the signing. So we will try to have the signing of the agreement in the Philippines before Ramadan because the time period for the President to prepare will be very short,” Cayetano said.

“And if the President decides to visit or if the invitation is reiterated, the visit can take place, hindi pa sure, but it can take place after Ramadan,” he said.

The Ramadan period will start mid-May of this year.

Kuwait earlier assured it would uphold the rights of Filipinos working in their country.

“What they agreed upon is that they will honor, you know, minimum standards of treating our OFWs. They will respect our rights to protect our workers in Kuwait,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.

“And because the President is sincere, they can see his sincerity, he delivers the message better on a one-on-one, or a bilateral basis,” Cayetano added.

Russia, China to embrace more Pinoy workers

Filipinos aiming to work abroad may find their way to Russia and China, a government official said.

Bernard Olalia, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, said this was in line of the Duterte administration’s vision to find more destinations for Filipino workers.

“Russia is opening their market for the first time to the Philippines,” he said.

“They want a government-to-government deployment scheme, just like what we did with China,” Olalia added.

According to him, Russia seeks to employ workers in construction and services.

China, on the other hand, has recently opened its country for more than 2,000 English teachers this YEAR.

Olalia noted even the Czech Republic as well as San Marino are already in talks with the governmment in terms of labor deals.

The Philippines has been banking on money sent home by million sof overseas Filipino workers to drive local economy growth.

Based on the World Bank, the money sent last year was at $33 billion, accounting for about 10 percent of gross domestic product.

PH-Saudi joint conference to strengthen welfare of OFWs

A three-day conference aimed at identifying the problems and to intensify the protection of Filipinos abroad is being held in Olongapo City.

The Joint PH-KSA Industry Conference on the Welfare and Protection of OFWs is organized by the Philippine Recruitment Agencies Accredited to Saudi Arabia (PRAASA), a known organization for Philippine recruitment agencies.

Its president Aimee Enriqeuz and some agencies in Saudi Arabia are working together to learn major issues and concerns facing Filipinos working overseas.

The conference is targeting to come up with a unified solution to improving the welfare of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

Government agencies such as Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and Philippine Employment Administration are all going to participate.

Joining the event as a speaker is Dr. Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Bussairy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It will run from April 22 to 24 at the Subic Bay Travellers Hotel and Events Place, Subic Bay.

Social enterprises solution to fight poverty

Social enterprises are being pushed to help underprivileged Filipinos improve their living conditions.

Enchanted Farm, Gawad Kalinga’s avenue to promote social enterprises, has been guiding former slum dwellers in learning how to make small businesses, such as Peanut butter making and plush toys, in its Bulacan-based site.

“The poor do not have many options for work, but social enterprises are a great way to generate jobs and incomes, and benefit many more in the community,” said Joni Morales, manager at Gawad Kalinga.

“Everyone who lives here works here, and can themselves become entrepreneurs one day,” he said.

Other businesses include First Harvest – partly funded by Australian Aid – which makes peanut butter and other spreads, and Plush and Play, set up by a French well-wisher, that makes stuffed toys resembling vegetables and fruits.

A sister organization, Human Nature, makes skincare and bodycare products with ingredients such as coconut, aloe and lemongrass sourced from poor farmers. Its employees include Enchanted Farm residents, as well as slum-dwellers.

Moreover, Gomer Padong from PSEN has urged the Senate to pass the Poverty Reduction Through Social Entrepreneurship Bill to further equip Filipinos with ways to get out from poverty.

“For the marginalized with little education and few resources, social enterprises are often the only option for financial security, sustainability and empowerment,” he said.

“They are particularly relevant for the Philippines, as the poor are increasingly locked out of private sector-focused development,” he added.

More Pinoy English teachers in China soon

A deal allowing the deployment of more Filipino English teachers in China is expected to be inked by the two nations.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana disclosed to reporters this agreement will be one of the bilateral deals to be signed during President Rodrigo Duterter’s visit to China for his attendance at the Boao Forum for Asia this second week of April.

“There are some minor details still being ironed out, but if everything works, the agreement to open, to hire more Filipino English teachers for China, to open the Chinese market,” he said.

“There are several agreements that would be signed tomorrow (April 10), we’ll have to wait for the final list but it will include an agreement to further deepen and broaden the economic relations,” he added.

Romana said the current process was Filipinos find jobs in China on their own.

He also noted that there was a Chinese rule before allowing only Native English speakers for the job.

“They wanted to emphasize you know, what they called native speakers but they have relaxed it now,” Sta. Romana said.

“We noticed that they were allowing certain countries that were not strictly English-speaking native speakers but rather were former colonies of native speaking countries and so under that provision or under that — when they allowed that, it was very clear the Philippines was part of that, it could not be excluded,” he added.

DOLE expects more regular Jollibee employees

Fastfood giant Jollibee is expected to comply with the government’s order to regularize its workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the agency expects more regular employees after the DOLE-National Capital Region (NCR) ordered Jollibee last April 4 to fix the employment status of its more than 6,000 workers.

“On a nationwide basis, you can think of more than 10,000 to 50,000 considering the bulk of the employees of Jollibee,” ello said.

“The inspections has been going on and they’re now submitting their own report of the respective regional heads,” he added.

The homegrown fastfood chain was given 10 days to appeal the decision of DOLE-NCR Director Henry John Jalbuena.

“The decision of the regional director is appealable to me. We have a procedure for that,” Bello said.

“He has the authority. And if they question the regional director, then they can appeal to me. But, definitely our directors are empowered to do that,” he said.

DBM OKs 75k new teaching positions

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the creation of more than 75,000 new teaching positions as part of the Duterte administration’s vision to address the mentor shortage in public schools across the Philippines.

These new positions will be deployed starting school year 2018 to 2019, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in a press briefing on April 3.

He said a total of 75,242 new teaching positions will be created, 74,886 of which are for entry level, while the remaining are Teacher-2 level equivalent to salary grade 12 intended for the Senior High School program.

Diokno said the government has been relying to the expertise of teachers from private schools and universities for the past two years to support the implementation of the K-12 program.

“Now that we have this full complement of university students coming from grades 11 and 12, we need to be at these positions,” he said.

Of the total, 40,642 Teacher-1 positions have been allocated for kindergarten and elementary levels while 34,244 Teacher-1 positions have been created for the Junior High School program.

The Budget secretary assured the government has enough budget to support the salaries and other benefits of the teachers to be hired.

DOLE orders Burger King to regularize 704 workers

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has ordered fast food giant Burger King to regularize its 704 workers amid reports of several violations of general labor law and standards.

DOLE on March 28 mandated Burger King to give workers from its 44 branches in Metro Manila a regular employment status.

This was following the joint assessment conducted by labor law compliance officers, wherein the burger chain was found to practice labor-only contracting activities.

Despite their contracts having probationary status, the documents did not indicate the specific duration of their employment, DOLE said. The department stressed this scheme circumvents the right of workers to security of tenure.

“The principal and its four other contractors have deployed workers, who are performing activities, which are directly related to the main business operation of the food chain,” it said.

The department said that the contractors also do not have substantial capital as the employees use the principal’s equipment and tools in the performance of their outsourced services.

The principal and contactors were found to be non-compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards for lacking trained safety personnel and a certified first aider.

Burger King and its contractors were also directed to immediately issue appointment letters and payroll reflecting the entitlements of the affected workers as regular employees.