MANILA: Filipino household service workers (HSW) may now proceed to work in Kuwait after the Philippine government announced on Friday the total lifting of the ban on the deployment of its citizens to the Gulf state.
In a resolution approved on Thursday, February 13, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) governing board said the government will now resume processing and deployment of all types of workers bound for Kuwait.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who chairs the POEA governing board, said the decision to lift the ban was made as the Kuwaiti government had met the conditions set by the Philippine government, including the filing of charges against the employers of slain Filipina worker Jeanelyn Villavende.
“After due consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the filing of appropriate charges against the perpetrators (in the killing) of OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) Jeanelyn Villavende, the governing board of the POEA unanimously approved the lifting of the remaining ban in Kuwait with respect to the deployment of household workers,” Bello said.
A total deployment ban of Filipinos to Kuwait was imposed in January after an autopsy report by the National Bureau of Investigation revealed that Villavende was sexually abused and brutally murdered.
The labor department noted that the NBI findings were “contrary to the inadequate autopsy report of the Kuwait Ministry of Health.”
However, in view of the approval early this month by the Kuwait and Philippine governments of a harmonized employment contract for Filipino domestic workers in the oil-rich country, the POEA governing board last week partially lifted the ban. This allowed professionals and skilled and semi-skilled workers to deploy to Kuwait, but not HSWs.
Bello said the standardized contract will ensure the welfare and protection of Filipino workers in Kuwait.
The labor chief said that during their meeting with Kuwaiti officials at the beginning of February, the Kuwait government conceded the provisions that President Rodrigo Duterte specifically wants to be included in the standard employment contract for Filipino HSWs.
These include prohibition on employers keeping a worker’s passport, and allowing a worker to keep her phone and use it outside working hours.
Filipino workers are also entitled to a weekly day off with pay, must not work for more than 12 hours a day, take a break after five consecutive hours of work, and get eight hours of sleep.
Employers are also prohibited from sending a domestic worker to work outside Kuwait or to work for another employer without the Filipino HSW’s written consent. If this occurs without the agreement of the worker, Bello said the worker will be returned to the Philippines at the expense of the employer.
Further, the employer is required to register the HSW in the health system applicable in Kuwait.
More than 50 percent of about 250,000 documented workers in Kuwait are said to be household workers.