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Pinoy undocumented workers bear brunt of France’s lockdown

By Macel Ingles

OSLO, Norway– Filipino undocumented workers are hardest hit by the French lockdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic. This, according to the Nagkakaisang Pillipino sa Pransya (NPSP), a Filipino migrant organisation based in Paris.

“Since the start of the lockdown last March 17, the Filipino undocumented workers found themselves in a no work, no pay situation,” NPSP wrote in an online interview on the situation of Filipinos in France.

“The struggle of being undocumented and not declared at work doubles the vulnerability and burden of our compatriots gaining no benefits and aid both from France and especially the Philippine government,” the organization added.

Undocumented workers are considered as “invisible workers” in France because they are not covered by existing labor laws. The state tends to neglect this sector of workers making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from their employers and to inhuman working conditions.

The NPSP had been monitoring the situation of Filipinos in France since the French lockdown and has started a fundraiser to help the undocumented kababayans, who because of their status, cannot access social services from the government of France. The fundraiser hopes to collect enough money to buy 20€ relief packages for those who may need assistance.

“Napakahirap po ng kalagayan sa Paris. Isa, dahil sa Covid bawal lumabas. Sa usaping sahod, ay nasa amo ho sa katulad kong illegal worker. May among magbabayad at may among namang hindi,” part-time nanny told Acee Catahan Pinoy Portal Europe on an online interview.

She also worries about her financial situation and has asked her family in the Philippines for understanding if she won’t be able to send them money in the meantime. “Kako sa pamilya ko ay mas kailangan namin dine ang financial. Sila naman ay may halaman at kahit papaano’y may pantawid gutom doon sa Laguna,” she added.

Undocumented workers like Catahan fear police controls that ask for their identification cards and work permits when they venture outside their homes during the lockdown. Fear of being caught stops them from going out to work.

Some of the concerns of Pinoy during the lockdown in Paris include worries about employment for those who still work, and issues on payment of salaries despite the lockdown.

Some Filipino workers were also elated by news that the French government has assured workers that they will be paid but this policy only applies to “declared” workers. A worker is considered “declared” if the employer registers their employment to the government. Some declared workers do not have work permits.

“Sa aming mga nanny na declared ang work, 80% ang sahod ang ibibigay ng amo. Sa ibang part- timer wala siguro silang sahod/pero yung iba pasasahurin sila,” Irene Carlos revealed. She is lucky to have an employer who is complying with the government policy despite the fact that she has no work permit.

Some of the workers have no choice but to work despite fears for their safety.

“Ako naman live-in sa amo, tuloy ang trabaho mahirap din pagod sa pag-asikaso sa kanila araw araw, nalabas ako na bumili ng food. Ingat na lang wala akong magagawa kahit bawal lumabas,” live-in domestic worker Marsha Bascar said.

She also said that she is unable to send money at this time as most of the establishments are closed.

Senior Chef Fourmi Fumante shared the uncertainties and difficulties of some Pinoys in being able to send some money to their families in the Philippines due to the restrictions.

“Dahil sa lockdown medyo pahirapan lumabas kasi pahigpit ng pahigpit ang rules, hindi natin alam kung madelay ang sahod or ano,” Fumante noted. He also said that , “ang mga undeclared dito natatakot din lumabas di lang sa virus kundi pag nasita need nila pakita ng ID.”

“Bukas naman ang mga Pinoy at Arab stores kung saan ka puwedeng magpadala ng pero ang tanong ay kung may ipapadala pa,” he added.

Au pair Mau de Guzman was lucky enough to have been able to send money to her family in the Philippines before the lockdown and she said that her employer has assured her that she will continue to receive her allowance.

Aside from the fundraiser, the NPSP has also urged the Philippine embassy in France to help Filipinos who have lost jobs but are not qualified to claim unemployment benefits. It also appealed to the embassy to include France in the priority countries in the Department of Labor and Employment’s USD200 AKAP Financial Assistance Program for OFWs who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 crisis.

The group estimates that there are now around 65,000 Filipinos in Frances and are mostly living in the cities of Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

It also said that most Filipinos in France work as domestic workers, childcare workers, maintenance workers, hotel and restaurant employees and embassy staff. Majority of these workers are undocumented and female.

Since the lockdown, the labor department had confirmed that a total of 400,000 businesses had been affected by the coronavirus crisis and that 1 out of 4 workers in France has lost their jobs. #

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If you want to help kababayans in France, this is the link to the fundraiser.

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This article originally appeared on Pinoy Portal Europe.

OFW ID is not free after all

By Angel L. Tesorero of Khaleej Times for Kodao Productions

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Filipino expats were disappointed to discover that the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) ID, touted as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘best gift’ to millions of OFWs, is not actually free, as earlier announced.

Duterte led the soft launching of the OFW ID on Wednesday in Manila. The ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC (overseas employment certificate), a travel document or exit pass that is required for any OFW leaving the Philippines and returning to the country of his/ her employment.

Some Filipino expats tried to apply for the OFW card by accessing the iDOLE portal https://ofw.idole.ph/ and were surprised to discover that they will be charged with 501 pesos to get the card, aside from the delivery fee.

Sharjah resident and Migrante Middle East coordinator, Nhel Morona, who tried to acquire the ID on Thursday night, told Khaleej Times: “At the onset, we already had doubts that this ID is totally free. After I encoded my personal and employment details, I was asked to pay 501 pesos and another 200 pesos  to have it delivered at my hometown.”

Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier announced that the OFW ID is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with DOLE, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Bello, who described the OFW ID as the “best gift’ that President Duterte is giving to millions of OFWs for matters concerning their overseas employment,” added that “all the unique IDs will be delivered to them, whether they are in the Philippines or overseas.”

Labour undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III told Khaleej Times on Wednesday that OFWs will not pay anything to get the unique card.

“Walang babayaran ang OFWs (OFWs will not pay anything), Lagunzad said in Filipino. “Recruitment agencies will pay on behalf of employers. This will be enforced by POEA. Because POEA issued a governing board resolution authorising and imposing fees.”

“The amount will be set by POEA based on charges by three government offices – DBP Philpost and APO. Validity is term of contract but ID number is same. The ID will be updated every time there is new contract.

“The POEA will process the contract and OEC then send to DOLE the names and other details of the processed OFW then have the ID printed by APO Printing (the same company that prints Philippine passports). Then Philpost will deliver the ID to the forwarding address of the OFW,” Lagunzad added.

“The processing of the iDOLE would be shouldered by the employers; hence, OFWs need not pay for the cost of the ID,” according to a DOLE statement.

But Dubai resident Jun Cargullo said: “The (Philippine) government earlier announced that employers or recruitment agencies will shoulder the cost of the ID. But this ID is only relevant to domestic transactions and has nothing to do with our employment abroad. This is not like the Emirates ID or UAE health card.”

“At the end of the day, it is us, OFWs, who will have to pay for the card,” Cargullo added. “The OFW ID is actually more expensive than the OEC. We used to pay only 100 pesos to acquire an OEC every time we travel and we go back home at least once every year. So it will take at least five travels or five years before we can recoup the same expense of getting an OEC five times,” he explained.

Morona added that the cost of the OFW ID can probably be imposed on recruitment agencies which are deploying new OFWs. “But how about those who are already employed abroad? Who will pay for the OFW ID? I don’t think we can charge it to our employers,” he asked

Morona also made his own calculations. “The OFW ID will mean a windfall profit for the (Philippine) government,” he said. “Imagine there are 10 million Filipinos working abroad, if all of us will get an OFW ID that can easily translate to 5.01 billion pesos (Dh365m).

Portal goes offline

Meanwhile, the Department of Labour and Employment has yet to issue the guidelines on how OFWs can avail of the OFW card. The iDOLE portal also went offline for few hours on Friday and when it went back live with a note that reads: “This website is for testing purposes only. To our beloved OFWs, please wait for the official launching, rest assured that the OFW card is 100 per cent free of charge to the OFW.” (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

OEC is gone, but UAE Filipinos have to wait for new OFW IDs

By Angel L. Tesorero / Repost from Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arad Emirates–Filipino expats in the UAE will have to wait for a couple of months before they can avail of the eagerly anticipated OFW (overseas Filipino workers) ID launched in Manila today.

Felicitas Bay, Philippine Labour Attaché to Dubai and northern emirates, told Khaleej Times: “We have not received any instructions or operational guidelines yet from the main office” (in Manila) regarding the OFW ID that will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

An OEC is a travel document or exit pass that has to be presented at international ports of exit in the Philippines before an OFW can return to the country of his/ her employment. The OFW ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC starting July 12.

No less than Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is expected to grace the launch event on Wednesday.

Aside from serving as an ID for migrant Filipinos, the OFW ID can also be used in lieu of other Philippine government IDs, including Social Security System, Pag-IBIG Fund, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation cards. Eventually, Filipino expats can also use the OFW ID for other government transactions like getting a police clearance or  as an ATM or debit card to send money back home via the proposed OFW Bank.

Philippine Labour Minister Silvestre Bello III announced last week that the OFW is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with the Department of Labor, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Filipino expats in the UAE welcomed the move by the Philippine government. “Replacing the OEC with an OFW ID is good news,” former FilCom (Filipino Community) president Alan Bacason said. “It will be an all-in-one ID, much like the Emirates ID. It is also a good way to properly monitor the OFWs not just in the UAE but around the world.” (OFWs worldwide number around 10 million, according to Philippine official records).

“In the meantime, for those who will take a break or will attend to some concerns in the Philippines and will return to the same employer (in the UAE), you may wish to apply online for your OEC as this will facilitate your exit from the Philippines,” Bay told Khaleej Times.

Bay also advised her kababayans (countrymen) to regularly check www.polodubaiportal.org for updates on the OFW ID.

“Should there be any official pronouncement/ guidelines, we will post them at the POLO-Dubai (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) portal,” she noted. # (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

Migrant workers storm OWWA office

Migrant workers and their families led by Migrante stormed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office last March 16 to protest the agency’s inaction on the plight of stranded Filipinos abroad.

Migrante says that OWWA forces them to pay for so-called protection funds for Filipino workers abroad but does nothing when needed.

At the moment, hundreds of migrant workers are stranded in Saudi Arabia alone but are not being repatriated by the Aquino government.

Migrante demands that the government use their welfare funds to help stranded Filipino workers abroad.

The protesters are also demanding that assistance claims must be given to OFWs as well as an accounting of the 18 billion peso OWWA fund.