On February 4 (Tuesday), Philippine officials led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and their Kuwaiti counterparts have signed an agreement on the proposed standard employment contract for Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) in the Gulf State.
In spite of this development, the department clarified that the total deployment ban will remain in place, pending validation of Kuwait’s claims it has formally charged suspects in the murder of domestic worker Jeanelyn Villavende.
Philippines, Kuwait Sign Agreement on Standard Employment Contract for OFWs
According to Labor Secretary Bello, the technical working groups of both governments have finalized a “harmonized” template contract— which comes in the wake of a total ban on deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf State. The deal was sealed during the joint committee meeting of the two countries at the start of the month, as shared in a report by CNN Philippines.
In an interview at the Senate, Bello shared that both parties have agreed and signed to harmonize the standard contract of employment and that everything was in order.
The template contract for OFWs is contained under a provision of a 2018 labor deal between the two countries— an agreement crafted to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf State. Labor officials earlier attributed the delay of its finalization due to disagreements on certain rules in the provision.
Secretary Bello explained that the agreement will ensure the protection of Filipino household workers in Kuwait. It prohibits the confiscation of the workers’ mobile phones and passports and spells out standards for their proper feeding.
Bello added that the standard contract contains regulations endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte— including allowing Filipinos to keep their passports and cellphones, setting one day off with pay, as well as designating working and sleeping hours for the OFWs.
The need for a specific employment contract resurfaced following the death of Jeanelyn Villavende, a household worker killed by her Kuwaiti employer.
Villavende’s case, along with other reported “maltreatment and deaths” of OFWs— also prompted the Labor Department to impose a total ban on workers’ deployment to Kuwait.
In an earlier statement, Bello said the directive may be lifted if Kuwaiti courts take appropriate action on Villavende’s case.
Nevertheless, the ban stays in the meantime— as the department awaits status reports on the cases of OFW deaths.
The labor secretary clarified: “We asked for status report at saka ‘yung (and the) validation ng sinabi nila (what the suspects in Villavende’s case said) were formally charged.”
The government in 2018 declared a ban on workers deploying to Kuwait, which lasted four months, following the murder of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis. In May 2019, Malacañang sought the review of its memorandum of understanding with the Kuwaiti government after the killing of another Filipina, Constancia Dayag.
Meanwhile, Bello and his delegation left for Manila on Monday afternoon (February 3) together with 68 distressed OFWs who were mostly victims of sexual, physical or verbal abuse, non-payment of salaries, overwork and lack of food.