DOLE to endorse OFWs' exemption from placement fees

MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz guaranteed her immediate endorsement of the proposed ratification of the Private Employment Agencies Convention of 1997, which prohibits charging migrant workers of job placement fees.

Baldoz explained she is merely waiting for consensus among industry players before endorsing the move, which would greatly benefit land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

She assured the employer sector that, once consensus from all relevant industry tripartite councils is reached, the labor department will immediately work on the papers the foreign affairs department would need.

"If they (stakeholders) can give me tomorrow a similar consensus, then the next day I will do all the documentation and submit all the support for the President to endorse it," Baldoz said on Friday, February 27.

The Cabinet official was speaking at a project closure conference of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which also expressed support for the ratification the international instrument.

The Philippines is a known labor-sending country, with over 10 million Filipinos either temporarily working or permanently residing abroad.

OFWs' remittances comprise more than a 10th of the country's gross national income.

President Benigno Aquino III, however, envisions "a government that creates jobs at home so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity."

ILO C181

Under current state rules, only select OFWs – including domestic workers, caregivers, seafarers, and those bound to specified countries – are exempted from placement fees.

Otherwise, an OFW may be charged with as much as his or her one month's salary. 

Rene Cristobal of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines raised the issue with Baldoz during Friday's conference.

He said advocates for OFWs' complete exemption from placement fees had been "like a broken record" over the years, repeatedly appealing for the government's ratification of the international instrument.

The convention, also known as the International Labor Organization Convention 181 (ILO C181), provides that "private employment agencies shall not charge directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, any fees or costs to workers."

Member-states which have ratified the convention will also "take the necessary measures to ensure adequate protection for the workers employed by private employment agencies."

These protections include freedom of association, collective bargaining, minimum wages, statutory social security benefits, access to training, occupational safety and health, among others.

ILO C181 is among 50 ILO conventions yet to be ratified by the Philippines, which involves the President's approval and final signing.

The Senate's concurrence would be needed to give it force. –