PH, Kuwait seal ‘harmonized’ template contract for OFWs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5)— Officials from the Philippines and Kuwait have signed an agreement on the proposed standard employment contract for Overseas Filipino Workers in the Gulf State, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the technical working groups of both governments have finalized a “harmonized” template contract— which comes in the wake of a total ban on deployment of Filipino workers to the foreign country. The deal was sealed during the joint committee meeting of the two countries at the start of the month.

“Okay naman, nagkasundo, nagkapirmahan… to harmonize standard contract of employment,” Bello told reporters in a chance interview at the Senate.

[Translation: It was okay, we agreed, signed to harmonize the standard contract of employment.]

The template contract for OFWs is contained under a provision of a 2018 labor deal between the two countries— an agreement crafted to protect the welfare of Filipino workers in the Gulf State. Labor officials earlier attributed the delay of its finalization due to disagreements on certain rules in the provision.

Bello said the standard contract contains regulations endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte— including allowing Filipinos to keep their passports and cellphones, setting one day off with pay, as well as designating working and sleeping hours for the OFWs.

The need for a specific employment contract resurfaced following the death of Jeanelyn Villavende, a household worker 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 total ban on workers' deployment to Kuwait.

Bello earlier said the directive may be lifted if Kuwaiti courts take appropriate action on Villavende’s case.

The ban, however, stays in the meantime— as the department awaits status reports on the cases of OFW deaths.

"We asked for status report at saka 'yung (and the) validation ng sinabi nila they (suspects in Villavende's case) were formally charged," Bello said.