BRUSSELS—In order to orient migrants of their rights, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Philippine Embassy, in cooperation with Organisatie Voor Clandestienne Arbeidsmigranten (ORCA), an organization in Belgium that safeguards the rights of undocumented migrants, held an assembly of Filipino Leaders.
While different sectors of the community enjoy good working condition, fair treatment and substantial salary benefits, the POLO and Philippine Embassy believe that the rights of domestic helpers should also be recognized and protected as indicated in the International Labor Organization’s adoption of the Convention on Domestic Workers.
European Working Conditions Conservatory data disclosed that of the 8,859,849 Belgium’s total population, 1,064,906 are migrants. According to sources, there are around 35,087 migrants working as domestic helpers. ORCA thinks many are prone to abuses from their employers, especially those who do not possess the necessary working permit.
ORCA appealed to the Belgian government to look closely into the plight of domestic helpers. The organization recommended the following to policymakers:
• Develop a new third party system where the employer is the agency not the family
• There should be validation of skills/trainings/quality label in order to increase appreciation for domestic work
• The salary should be dependent on the tasks of the domestic helper. Specific tasks such as child care or combination of various tasks should be paid more
• The government should issue working permits on a more realistic basis
• Work permits should not be tied to one specific employer but issued to work in a specific sector
• There should be a bilateral agreement on the transfer of social security of domestic helpers
• Decent shelter for live-in domestic helpers.
POLO calls for unity among Pinoys
Labor Attache Rustico dela Peña made it clear that while the Philippine government through the Philippine embassy plays a vital role in upholding the rights of every Filipinos in Belgium, it is also important that Pinoys, whether documented or not, look after each other .
“Hindi po lahat ay responsibilidad ng pamahalaan para sa atin. Marami po yung responsibilidad natin para sa sarili natin. Subalit kung pagsasamahin natin ang effort, ang initiatives at panahon ng ating pamahalaan, ng ating embahada at ng ating mga community leaders katulad nyo na mga organizations, siguro po ay gagaan ang ating mga gawain,” he said.
He also assured everyone that the Philippine Embassy and POLO will always be ready to assist fellow Filipinos should the need arises.
Filcom leaders on the other hand, acknowledge the efforts being exerted by POLO and the embassy.
“Mahalaga ang meeting na ito para maibahagi natin sa kapwa natin Pilipino na inaabuso ng kanilang mga employer lalo na yung mga walang papel, “ said Filcom leader Divina Mariano.
She, along with other leaders, pledged to cascade the information to their members and promised to coordinate well with the authorities.