PH to scale down deployment of workers to Kuwait

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2020   •   410

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday said it is scaling down the deployment of workers to Kuwait over its new requirement for returning expatriates from the Philippines and nine other nations to present proof they are not infected with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said scaling down of deployment means that the government will slow down the issuance of overseas employment certificates (OEC) by delaying its processing for one month.

An OEC is an exit clearance for departing Filipino migrant workers.

“It’s not a retaliatory order, it’s a practical order. They are requiring so many requirements for our workers, that’s giving more burden to our workers. In order to prevent our workers from going there, they might as well go to other countries,” Bello told reporters in a briefing.

He, however, said he has spoken with the Department of Foreign Affairs to work out an arrangement with Kuwaiti authorities to honor medical certificates issued by Department of Health-run hospitals and local health centers, which are issued for free.

Kuwait, which reported 56 confirmed coronavirus infections, announced on Wednesday that expatriates from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Lebanon.

READ: Expats from Philippines, 9 other countries returning to Kuwait to face new protocol amid COVID-19 spread

The new travel protocol, which will take effect on March 8, requires expatriates to undergo medical examination and present certificates that confirms they are not infected with the virus before entering the Gulf state.

These certificates must be issued by health centers approved by the Embassy of State of Kuwait. If there is no Kuwaiti embassy in these countries, they must be certified by the health authorities operating in the said countries.

Expatriates failing to comply with the new protocol will be denied entry to Kuwait and deported to their country of origin “without the State bearing any financial costs” through the same carrier.

The airline company will also be fined for violating the order.

The country’s partial deployment ban to Kuwait remains in place, only allowing semi-skilled, skilled, and professional workers to return to their employers. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

DOLE forms task force to speed up OFW processing, return to homes

Robie de Guzman   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced that it has formed task force groups to expedite the return of quarantined overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to their respective homes.

In a statement issued Wednesday, DOLE said the task groups, dubbed as “balik-probinsiya” and “balik-abroad,” will help fast track the movement of OFWs from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations, as well as facilitate the speedy processing of outbound workers.

The move follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to immediately send home all OFWs who tested negative for COVID-19 conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Red Cross.

DOLE said about 24,000 OFWs have been kept in government-designated quarantine facilities since their return to the country. Most workers had complained of the slow release of their results and clearances after weeks and even months of quarantine and tests.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, however, said the government did not intend to inconvenience the returning OFWs with their prolonged quarantine and delayed test results.

“DOLE and OWWA simply had no control over the testing and issuance of clearances,” he said.

Bello said he had ordered the designation of additional personnel from its regional and attached agencies to beef up the manpower requirement of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in ensuring the smooth land and air transport, and monitoring of OFWs from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations.

In an administrative order, Bello also formed a separate task group to ease the processing of outbound land and sea-based workers whose country of destination has lifted the restrictions on the employment of foreign workers.

“We are doing this so as we don’t lose the jobs for our OFWs, while at the same time we help facilitate the quick homecoming and be of assistance to our returning workers,” the labor chief said.

Aside from facilitating the processing of inbound and outbound OFWs, the ‘hatid-probinsya’ and ‘balik-abroad’ task groups will serve as monitoring offices for onsite OFWs and those seeking repatriation, DOLE said.

DOLE, employers reminded to get workers’ consent on any wage adjustment

Robie de Guzman   •   May 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to keep a close watch on employers who have implemented salary adjustment and resorted to scaling down company benefits due to the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Senator Joel Villanueva reminded DOLE to protect the rights of workers and to ensure that employers are implementing wage and benefit adjustments with the full consent and awareness of workers.

“DOLE must ensure that any reduction in wages that would be implemented by employers should be according to the guidelines it issued earlier this month,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“More importantly, both employers and workers must agree to the terms together, and the latter should not be forced or coerced to decide,” he added.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, noted that under the non-diminution principle in the Labor Code employers are prohibited from making cuts on a worker’s basic pay.

DOLE, in its labor advisory issued last week, said that employers may opt to slash allowances or other benefits stated in employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements for so long as employees are informed beforehand and voluntarily agree to the move.

The advisory also stated that all agreements, which must be in writing, should not have a duration exceeding six months.

“At this critical time, we appeal to both employers and workers to look out for each other. The only way we could overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is to align the interests of each other. Workers’ welfare and dignity would always translate to the success of enterprises,” Villanueva said.

DOLE also urged employers earlier to adopt work-from-home arrangements and alternative work schemes to preserve the jobs of workers.

These arrangements must be reported to DOLE for documentation and proper monitoring.

DOLE: Workers get double pay on May 25

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Employees who will work on Monday (May 25) will receive double pay, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In an advisory, the Labor Department said employees who will work during the Feast of Ramadhan or Eid’l Fitr holiday will receive 200% of their regular salary for the first eight hours and an additional 30% of their hourly rate for overtime.

Employees who will not work on the said holiday will still receive 100% of their salary.

The advisory also stated, some companies “defer the payment of the holiday pay until such time that the national health emergency is abated and normal business operations are resumed.”

Meanwhile, establishments that have ceased operations during the community quarantine period are exempted from the payment of the holiday. AAC

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