Saturday, February 4, 2012

MOU on Philippine workers won’t resolve key problems: rights group

The Daily Star, February 04, 2012, by Emma Gatten

BEIRUT: A memorandum of understanding and accompanying protocol signed between Lebanon and the Philippines doesn’t provide a solution to the problems facing migrant domestic workers in the country, a Human Rights Watch official said Friday.

“It’s a band-aid for one specific
group,” Nadim Houry, the director of the Beirut office of HRW, told The Daily Star.

The Labor Ministry Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with its Filipino counterpart to implement regulations governing the recruitment and working practices of Filipino domestic workers.

It’s hoped that the MOU will lead to the lifting of the current ban by the Filipino government on the deployment of migrant domestic workers to Lebanon, in place due to the lack of protections afforded to domestic workers, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to abuse.

There are currently an estimated 30,000 Filipino domestic workers in Lebanon despite the ban, according to the Philippines’ Secretary of Labor and Employment Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz.

Domestic work is exempt from the Labor Law, which governs working hours, conditions and basic pay. Among its provisions the new memorandum would ensure a basic salary of $400 and at least one day off a week, and give employees the right to retain workers’ passports.

Houry said the ban would likely just transfer the problem.

“We’re now likely to see a push toward bringing workers from countries where it’s cheaper and there are no protections in place,” he said.

He called for the government to draft a law to cover all domestic workers, or to include domestic work within the Labor Law to ensure the same rights for all employees.

The memorandum won’t automatically lead to the lifting of the ban, and will only take effect once both parties have received written notification that all the conditions within the MOU have been met. Under the protocol signed in accompaniment with the MOU, the two countries must agree upon a work contract before the ban can be lifted.

Rona Goce, the vice consul of the Philippines Embassy, said it was too early to say what the outcome of the MOU would mean for the lives of Filipino domestic workers already here, or the potential for future deployment.

Hisham Bourji, president of the Association of Owners of Workers Recruitment Agencies, said he was 70 percent sure the MOU would lead to the lifting of the ban.

1 comment:

  1. It is unacceptable that Filipino and other domestic workers are not covered by the Lebanese labor law. It is equivalent to saying that they are sub-human. Nothing less than regular labor law should be accepted. Not that Lebanese labor law is respected by all employers anyway. But at least this would make an important point and send a clear message. Implementation is another thing... but that has to do with the general state of lawlessness of Lebanon.