Workers seek clear bilateral agreements, union-to-union deals for OFW welfare

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Workers seek clear bilateral agreements, union-to-union deals for OFW welfare
This undated file photo shows OFWs.
STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — Workers are calling on the government to seal "clear bilateral agreements" and help support union-to-union cooperation for the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers.

The call is part of the 15-point labor agenda prepared by workers' groups and unions in the the Philippines. Close to 50 trade unions, workers' organizations, labor federations, research centers, and civil society organizations helped develop the agenda priorities. 

"They also call for [OFWs'] involvement in crafting new and reviewing existing bilateral agreements," the document of the International Labor Organization Philippines’ Labor Agenda read. 

The agreement between the Philippines and Germany inked in 2013 was cited as one of the good examples of a bilateral agreement that helps protect migrant workers, noting that it specifically stated that Filipino healthcare professionals should be compensated at par with their German counterparts. 

However, the workers did sound the alarm on the number of healthcare workers leaving the country as they urged the government to impose a deployment cap to avoid leaving the local healthcare system understaffed.

Healthcare groups have said that there is no lack of professionals willing to stay in the Philippines to work but that pay and working conditions in local hospitals make going abroad a better option for many.

RELATED: No shortage of nurses but low pay, lack of tenure driving them abroad

Workers said all country-to-country deals should be aligned with the ILO general principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment. The groups also call for abolishing and declaring illegal the practice of private recruitment agencies collecting fees from prospective OFWs.

Meanwhile, union-to-union agreements are seen to also help OFWs access representation, legal services, language accessibility and learning programs, and social protection, among others. 

Workers are also calling for the government to properly implement the "One Country Team Approach" for destination countries in order to streamline and facilitate the support and services offered to OFWs.

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