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OFW Rights 101

By Kim FerrerFebruary 18, 2018

Remember these tips when you’re going to work abroad

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (OFWs) who are victims of violence, abuse and discrimination are all over the news and social media.  Alice Soriano Aguilan, a domestic helper in Iraq, is one of the victims of these abuses — she trended online when she livestreamed via Facebook while a man was mauling her.

Luckily, she returned home last year with the help of the government officials. Aguilan is considered ‘lucky.’  Some OFWs experience the “worst” of abuses; some return to their native land in a box such as Joanna Demafelis, a domestic worker in Kuwait.

Despite these horrors experienced by some of our kababayan abroad, there are still many Filipinos who want to explore opportunities overseas. So for those who still want to go abroad, protect yourself by making critical decisions while applying. Always keep in mind the important people and organizations that can help you.

Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) shared some important reminders on how to protect yourself from any violence or fraud while abroad and while applying for work overseas:

  1. Check the credibility of the recruiter

According to Cainglet, the first thing every individual who wishes to apply abroad is to check the verified recruiters from the POEA website. You can check the list of verified recruitment firms here: www.poea.gov.ph/services/recruiters.

  1. Double-check job orders

He also advised that aside from checking the credibility of the recruitment firm, one must also check the job orders of recruitment firms.  Check the accredited job orders from the verified recruitment firms here in this link: www.poea.gov.ph/cgi-bin/JobVacancies/jobsMenu.

  1. Keep your contract

One of the essential things Cainglet pointed out to protect your rights as an OFW is to double check your contract. He said that there were instances that recruitment firms show two different job orders: One, while the employee signs his contract here; and second, when they arrive abroad.

Every employee should make sure to have copies of their contract with their signature, the employer’s signature, and the signature of the recruitment head. If in case you experience a “modification” in your contract once you arrive abroad, report immediately to the Philippine Embassy.

  1. Know placement fee rules

POEA has been clear about the placement fee rules, which according to them, “placement fees should only be made after a job has been placed for you.”

Under Section 51 of the Revised POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Filipino Workers of 2016, placement fee charges should be only equivalent to your one-month basic salary. Also note that domestic workers and seafarers do not need to pay placement fees. Countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands also do not require placement fees.

  1. Memorize the Embassy’s hotline

When working abroad, it’s important to remember the contact details of the Philippine Embassy. Each embassy has an attaché that can help OFWs with their questions and problems from legal to labor concerns.

Check the hotlines of Philippine Embassies in your place of work here: www.cfo.gov.ph/links/philippine-embassies-and-consulates-abroad.

  1. Keep a directory of organizations and labor unions

Cainglet said that most of the Philippine Embassies lack the manpower to support all OFWs working abroad, so aside from them, you can also reach out to various organizations and OFW unions in the country to help you with your concerns.

Here are the information where you can find them:

A. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)

Contact: 551-6641; 551-1560; (www.dfa.gov.ph/833OWWA)

E-Mail: opcenter7@owwa.gov.ph; owwa_opcenter@yahoo.com; opcenter@owwa.gov.ph

Address: OWWA Center Building, FB Harrison corner 7th Street, Pasay City

OWWA Offices Abroad: http://www.owwa.gov.ph/?q=map-offices

Website: www.owwa.gov.ph

 

B. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

Contact: 834-4000; 834-3000; (www.dfa.gov.ph)

Address: 2330 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City

 

C. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

DOLE Hotline: 1349; (www.dole.gov.ph)

Address: Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Building, Muralla cor. General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila

 

D. National Reintegration Center for OFW (NRCO)

Contact: 527-6184; (www.nrco.dole.gov.ph)

Address: Ground Flr., Blas F. Ople Development Center, cor. Solana and Victoria Sts., Intramuros, Manila

 

E. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)

Contact: 722-11-44 / 722-11-55; (www.poea.gov.ph)

Address: Blas F. Ople Building, Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA, Mandaluyong City

7. Know your rights as an employee and as an individual and the laws that govern you

Learn about the country that you’re going to.  Be alert on all the things that could happen to you while abroad. Remember that all documents such as passport or contracts should be with you and not with your employer.

Clarify your right to correct wages, rest, and communication with your family. And remember: Whatever country you’re working in, you ALWAYS have the right to report any incident of abuse or discrimination that’s happening to you or your co-worker.