New Zealand

Weeks after layoff, New Zealand OFWs still in limbo

Michelle Abad

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Weeks after layoff, New Zealand OFWs still in limbo

'FINAL PAY, DON'T DELAY.' Overseas Filipino workers laid off from their jobs in ELE Group demand the fast-tracking of their final pay in front of Deloitte Auckland, the accounting firm receiving five companies under ELE Group, on January 19, 2024.

Migrante Aotearoa

Relying on community donations, some workers had to sleep in their cars following their layoffs from ELE Group, according to Migrante Aotearoa

MANILA, Philippines – Four weeks since hundreds of Filipino workers were laid off due to the receivership of their company in New Zealand, they still await their final pay, government assistance assured to them, and aid to find new work.

In an open letter addressed to Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Kira Azucena and Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac given on Friday, January 19, the laid off workers from labor hire and recruitment firm ELE Group asked for the following:

  • To be able to find new work
  • To receive financial assistance of NZD $1,050 (P35,836.50) from the Philippine government
  • To receive their final pay and annual leave entitlements sooner than later from accounting firm Deloitte, whose specialists have been appointed receivers of five companies in ELE

Patuloy kaming umaasa sa agarang aksyon at ayuda ng gobyerno upang makamit ng ELE workers ang tatlong kahilingang ito,” the workers said in the open letter that was provided to Rappler by Migrante International, an OFW rights group supporting them. A total of 185 workers signed it.

(We are still hoping for immediate action and aid from the government so that the ELE workers may get these three demands.)

On January 12, Cacdac had said in a press conference that help was on the way for 452 identified OFWs who sought assistance, though the open letter said over 700 were affected. Cacdac said some 14 ELE employees were on vacation in the Philippines at the time ELE was placed under receivership.

“Our next [step] forward with them, of course, with the leadership of the Philippine embassy in Wellington, is to make representations with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and request them to possibly uphold the work visa of the workers to enable them to return to New Zealand and settle their obligations and/or transfer of employers if that is still possible,” Cacdac had said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The DMW added that some employers communicated to the Philippine labor attache in Wellington that they were interested in employing the displaced workers.

A week later, the workers were still unsatisfied by the pronouncements. The workers and their supporters held simultaneous protests in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch on Friday at noon, local time, for the fast-tracking of their demands. The Philippine embassy received the letter from supporters in Wellington.

In the open letter, they likened themselves to the OFWs who lost their jobs when their construction companies in Saudi Arabia went bankrupt over a decade ago.

Tulad na naranasan ng maraming mga OFW sa Saudi crisis at iba pang malawakang tanggalan sa trabaho, lahat ng ELE workers at aming mga pamilya ay umaasa na hindi lalagpas sa isang buwan ang kailangang hintayin para sa emergency financial assistance,” they said.

(Just like the experiences of the OFWs affected by the Saudi crisis and other mass layoffs, all ELE workers and our families are hoping that we will not have to wait for over a month for the emergency financial assistance.)

On December 21, 2023, the embassy asked Filipinos affected by the ELE receivership to fill up a Google Form to “determine the kind of assistance” that they are entitled to. But in the letter, the Filipinos said that many in the community were not used to filling up Google Forms, and do not always get to immediately read announcements on social media.

They also said that the Google Form should not have had a deadline, as it added “stress” to those who were not able to fill it up in time. As of posting, the Google Form is closed.

According to Migrante Aotearoa, some workers had to sleep in their cars as they relied on community support to get by.

Marami sa amin ay matagal nang nagigipit sa harap ng pataas nang pataas na cost of living, [lalo na] sa pagbaba sa 30 guaranteed hours imbis na 40 guaranteed hours sa aming mga kontrata. Hinihiling namin na i-agenda ninyo ito sa susunod na mga pulong ninyo sa gobyerno ng New Zealand,” the letter ended.

(Many of us have had difficulty with the increasing cost of living, especially when our 30 guaranteed hours were lowered from 40 guaranteed hours in our contracts. We ask that you put this on your agenda in your next meeting with the New Zealand government.)

“We salute the New Zealand-based grassroots organizations that have provided immediate and concrete support to our kababayans – First Union, Union of Migrants, and Migrante-Aotearoa. Their swift and committed response ensured that our kababayans had a less bleak Christmas. They are our kababayan’s lifelines and prove that bayanihan is still alive,” Migrante International said in a statement on Friday. – Rappler.com

1 NZD = P34.13

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.