PH-Kuwait negotiations on workers’ protection resumes this week

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AP Cayetano
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

MANILA – The Philippines will resume negotiations with Kuwait this week in Manila to craft a labor agreement providing strong guarantees on the safety and welfare of Filipino household service workers in the Gulf state, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Tuesday.

“We are looking forward to the conclusion of this bilateral agreement that we hope will be a model document in terms of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure the safety and well-being of our household service workers in Kuwait,” DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

Cayetano met with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III at the Manila Hotel on Monday evening with foreign affairs and labor officials involved in the negotiations.

An eight-member Kuwaiti delegation is confirmed to arrive in the country from March 15 to 16, 2018 for the proposed “Agreement on Domestic Workers’ Recruitment, Employment, and Protection Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the State of Kuwait.”

The Philippines was able to secure earlier the commitment of Kuwait on several matters, including the minimum monthly salary of 120 Kuwaiti dinar (around PHP20,000); rest hours of at least eight hours per day; possession by the workers of their passports and mobile phones; and limiting their work to only one household.

Cayetano said the Philippines should go beyond the usual in the negotiations with Kuwait, noting that bilateral labor agreements Manila had previously entered into with other countries look good on paper but could not be effectively implemented.

“President Rodrigo Duterte wants this agreement to be different from the other agreements we signed with other countries by making sure that whatever is written there will translate into real, actionable measures that will protect our kababayans from exploitation and abuse,” he said.

During the Manila Hotel meeting, Cayetano underscored the need to include more practical measures to make the proposed agreement more implementable.

Among these would be payment of salaries direct to the bank account of Filipino domestic workers whenever feasible and a mechanism that would allow them to file their complaints directly with Kuwaiti authorities.

Cayetano said these measures should be in place before the DFA and the DOLE would recommend the lifting of the labor deployment ban that the President declared early this year in the wake of the reported widespread abuses of Filipino domestic workers.

The Kuwaiti delegation that will participate in the negotiations will be led by Ambassador Ghanim Saqer Al-Ghanim, Assistant Minister for Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the DFA said.

Other members of the Kuwaiti panel are from the Residence Affairs Department of the Ministry of Interior and the Public Authority for Manpower of the Ministry of Labor.