Monday, March 23, 2009

Heavy Cross: Direct Hiring Ban


22 March 2009

For reference: Dolores Balladares-Pelaez
Tel. No.: (852) 97409406

Ban on Direct-Hiring,
a heavy cross on the shoulders of OFWs

HK maids march against pro-recruitment agency policies of Arroyo government

“As the Lenten season comes near, we ask the Arroyo government to unburden us of the heavy cross on our shoulders in the form of the ban on direct hiring and other anti-OFW policies.”

This was declared by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) and convenor of the SKRAP the Ban coalition*, as they trooped to the Philippine Consulate General office Sunday, 22nd of March this year.

Carrying a ten-meter cloth bearing signatures and calls from different leaders of many OFW groups, alliances, church organizations and individuals, the Filipino migrants marched displaying their disgruntlement with the Arroyo government’s pro-recruitment agency policies.

“For a long time, the Arroyo administration has remained deaf and dumb to the cries of thousands of OFWs who have been victimized by recruitment agencies through overcharging and illegal fees. Instead of penalizing these unscrupulous recruiters, it rewarded them with the recent ban on direct hiring and the continuing implementation of the 2007 POEA Guidelines both of which license them to collect excessive fees through mandatory training and assessment,” she asserted.

More than 11,000 signatures against the ban on direct hiring have been gathered and submitted to the PCG on February 8 this year with no response since from either the DOLE or Malacanang. To make matters worse, HK Labour Attaché Salud publicly defended the memorandum and presented conflicting statements on this, according to the SKRAP convenors.

To stress the call for the scrapping of the said memorandum issued by DOLE at the start of this year, Balladares-Pelaez remarked, “Overcharging of recruitment fees and the lack of government protection and services are the widespread and serious problems we are facing, not direct hiring. Direct hiring is in fact the only recourse we have to get saved from overcharging of greedy recruiters.”

Balladares-Pelaez also lambasted the “conciliation” process that the PCG-HK uses to resolve disputes on overcharging by unscrupulous recruitment agencies.

“We also vehemently condemn the PCG hands-on conciliation policy which clearly favors crooked recruitment agencies. Promoting settlement with the recruitment agency through the conciliation process is tantamount to legalizing the extortion of fees by unscrupulous recruiters. In short, this scheme clears unscrupulous recruitment agencies from any crime and will not face any prosecution,” she added.

The SKRAP the Ban coalition also stated that the sins of the GMA administration to the Filipino overseas workers are endless.

While being ensured of profits from recruitment agencies, GMA has no responsibility and accountability on the Filipinos she exports abroad, according to the group.

“Without doubt, this administration holds the worst record of criminal neglect and extortion to OFWs,” the group said.

They condemned the recent misallocation of 1 billion from OWWA and SSS funds as part of GMA’s stimulus package, the transfer of OWWA Medicare funds to the PhilHealth before the 2004 elections, and depriving OFWs of financial and livelihood assistance through the OWWA Omnibus Policies.

“It is so easy for this government to make funds available for their own agenda but when we ask for services and financial assistance, the usual response is ‘no funds available’,” the coalition members lamented.

Most ironic of all, while thousands of OFWs are being retrenched and sent home from countries around the world because of the global recession, the Arroyo administration remains apathetic to their miseries. Instead of providing economic relief, GMA stubbornly signed AO 247 to market Filipinos in 200 countries with a target of two million OFWs deployed, according to the group.

SKRAP vowed to make GMA pay for her criminal neglect, denial of services and lack of protection especially for OFWs urgently in need.

“We will intensify our efforts and strengthen our ranks while this criminally neglectful government enforces anti-migrant policies with impunity,” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

* SKRAP the Ban coalition is Samahan Laban sa Katiwalian ng mge Recruitment Agencies at Patakarang Ban sa Direct Hiring. It is a broad coalition of OFW groups in HK which includes many OFW organizations, alliances and church congregations.

The Secretariat
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
2/F., New Hall, St. John's Cathedral,
4 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 31562447 Fax. (852) 25262894

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