Protecting OFWs through Responsible Recruitment

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True to its objectives of researching policy issues invested with the common good, and transmitting its findings to spread a deeper sense of social responsibility, CRC held a conference entitled Responsible OFW Recruitment: Towards Protection and Welfare on March 15, 2017 in the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Professorial Chair Holder for Migration and Overseas Filipino Work, Dr. Veronica Ramirez, gathered members of  the Philippine Association for Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI), the Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait (PHILAAK), and the Coalition for Licensed Agencies Deploying Domestic and Service Workers (CLADS) in a one-day conference on current practices and policies on OFW recruitment in the Philippines.

Dr. Bernardo Villegas, in his welcome remarks, recognized that by processing the deployment of OFWs, licensed recruitment agencies help Filipino families increase their income so that they can provide for their basic needs, send their children to school, and fund their medical needs. They also upgrade their own skills and for some, start saving and investing. He reminded the participants not only to deal with day-to-day operations, but also to care about the integral human development of OFWs. He mentioned that Dr. Ramirez has been with them in many of their endeavors for excellence in recruitment service, the most recent of which was the goodwill mission to Kuwait from March 3 to 8, 2017.

(Left to right) Roland Collado, POEA Director Robert Larga, and ILO’s Hussein Macarambon

Mr. Hussein Macarambon, ILO national project coordinator for the Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment (FAIR), presented the 13 principles of Fair Recruitment which include workers’ agreements to the terms and conditions of recruitment, and employment that should be voluntary and free from deception or coercion.

POEA Deputy Administrator Robert Larga discussed government-to-government placement of workers in countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, and UAE. Among the challenges that he pointed out were the long waiting period of deployment for countries with preparatory language training requirements, and the lack of adequate facilities for workers’ accommodations during training.

Mr. Roland Collado, Vice Chairman of PHILAAK presented the concept of Recruitment Welfare Management, which aims to enable front-line employees of private recruitment agencies to develop knowledge and skills towards timely, proper, and effective management of critical welfare issues, thus a move to professionalize the recruitment industry.

(Left to right) Luther Calderon and Lito Soriano with Dr. Ramirez

Mr. Luther Calderon, president of Kabalilkat ng Migranteng Pilipino (KAMPI), discussed different activities for corporate social responsibility in the recruitment industry. To give more meaning to the acronym CSR, he referred to it as “Commit a little time to Spread our goodness and Reach out to those in need.” Among the benefits of CSR he mentioned were enhanced relationships with stakeholders; enhanced influence in the industry; and attraction, retention, and maintenance of a happy workforce.

In her presentation, Dr. Veronica Ramirez identified the common health problems of overseas household service workers (HSWs), which include musculoskeletal strain, injury, and body pains resulting from a variety of tasks, long hours of work, lack of rest and days off, and in some cases, poor accommodations.  HSWs opt for self-medication or putting off medical problems until they get very sick because there is strong fear of being terminated due to illness. To address these issues, Dr. Ramirez recommended a wellness program that includes awareness sessions on preventive health services, occupational ergonomics, safety and health, work and leisure balance, and other topics.

Mr. Loreto Soriano, president of LBS Recruitment Solutions Corp., assessed the impact of the No Placement Fee Policy on overseas domestic work. When the job seeker does not pay a placement fee, there is an increase in the hiring cost on the part of the foreign employer, and this has a profound impact on the employers, the deployed domestic workers (DWs), and the recruitment industry as a whole.  Compared to the Middle East, the 2006 Domestic Workers Reform Package failed to compel employers in Asia to pay for the cost of recruitment and the services of both foreign and Philippine recruitment agencies. In effect, DWs have continued to pay placement fees. Therefore, the 2006 Reform package incentivized the deployment of DWs to Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where their salaries have increased and where they do not pay placement fees.

The Bank of the Philippine Islands, grantor of the Professorial Chair on Migration and Overseas Filipino Work, presented their programs for land-based and sea-based OFWs, to increase the benefits of remittances for their families left behind. Mr. Bansan Choa and iRemit personnel also attended the conference and showed support through gift-giving activities.

Former USec. Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Policy Center and Training Institute

After the presentations and activities, participants from licensed recruitment agencies felt that as a university and as a research center, UA&P and CRC continue to work with them towards the protection and welfare of OFWs.