PH, Kuwait seek to finalize OFW template contract in January

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 3)— Officials from the Philippines and Kuwait are set to meet in Manila this month to work out an agreement on a template contract for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in the Gulf State, a Cabinet official said Friday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told CNN Philippines’ The Source that technical working groups of both governments want to finalize the proposed standard employment contract this month, when Kuwaiti officials are scheduled to visit the Philippines.

“December 27, (Kuwait) Ambassador (Musaed Saleh Ahmad) Althwaikh asked me, 'You go to Kuwait second week of January? We finalize the contract,” Bello said in the interview Friday. “I said no, not us going there, but you coming here. Because of this incident, yesterday they agreed to come here already. ” he added.

The template contract for OFWs is contained under a provision of a labor deal signed by both countries in 2018. The agreement aims to protect the welfare of Filipino workers in the Gulf State.

The proposed contract, in particular, would allow Filipinos to keep their passports and cellphones which are often surrendered to employers. There will also be designated working and sleeping hours for the OFWs, among others.

Bello, however, said both parties continue to disagree on certain rules in the provision. He said that under the agreement, the contract should contain four signatories—the employer, employee, and the recruitment agencies in the Philippines and in the employer's country.

Apat dapat 'yun pipirma, para they will be answerable kung sakaling may violations… Hindi kami nagkakasundo kasi gusto nila, dalawa lang pipirma. Gusto lang nila, employer and worker natin,” Bello explained.

[Translation: There should be four signatories, who will be the ones answerable should there be any violations. But we are disagreeing. They’re pushing for only two signatories—only the employer and our worker.]

The need for a specific employment contract resurfaced following the recent reported death of Jeanelyn Villavende, a household worker who was allegedly killed by her Kuwaiti employer.

Villavende’s case— along with other reported “maltreatment and deaths” of OFWs-- also prompted the Labor Department to impose a partial ban on deployment to Kuwait.

Bello, who vowed “full justice” for Villavende’s family members, said the ban will stay on—until the suspects in her death are charged by the Kuwaiti courts.