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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

HK OFW group cheers victory repatriated Annasban workers

Condemns worsening services and mandatory fee collection of OWWA
"The actions and laudable victory of repatriated Annasban workers in forcing the hands of OWWA to give them their due assistance should be emulated by OFWs around the world. This inutile office of the equally negligent GMA government should be condemned for the worsening state of services of the OWWA even while it continues to intensify its collection of fees."

This was declared today by Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the militant United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) after the three-day camp-out of repatriated Filipino caregivers from the Riyadh-based company resulted to OWWA's decision to give financial assistance and medical checkup to protesting OFWs and burial assistance to a fellow worker who died after being repatriated.
"In this month for women, the women OFWs of Annasban have shown courage and determination to fight for their rights. Moreso, they have shown what is really fundamentally wrong with the OWWA and that is, the gross neglect of OFW welfare while continuing to squeeze us dry," she added.
Balladares relayed that in Hong Kong, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO-HK) is again making collection of OWWA membership fee mandatory by making it a requirement to get an overseas employment certificate or OEC. Said OEC is issued to exempt vacationing OFWs from paying travel tax and terminal fee.
Additionally, Balladares reported that they got wind of a current practice by recruitment agencies in Hong Kong of collecting the OWWA fee from OFWs processing contracts through them that, allegedly, was also ordered by the POLO-HK.
"Even if it has been repeatedly rejected by OFWs in HK, the mandatory collection of OWWA fee is still shoved down our throats. With the elections coming, is this another way to increase the fund that this government can dip into for its electoral aims?" she remarked.
According to Balladares, the scheme of attaching the OWWA fee to the OEC was started last year but was suspended due to opposition from many OFW organizations. HK Labour Attache Romy Salud himself declared a moratorium on such practice initially until December 31 last year and then was extended until June this year when OFW groups reiterated POLO-HK's pledge in 2003 of making mandatory membership mandatory only after sufficient consultations with the OFW community.

"POLO-HK and OWWA are playing us for fools. While on our face, Labatt Salud declares a moratorium, the reverse happens in the OWWA counter. It is either the POLO-HK ha sinternal communication problems or Labatt Salud is just humoring OFWs with a very, very bad joke," Balladares said.
Balladares said that many OFWs would be subjected to this practice as many OFWs are set to go to the Philippines for vacation as March and April are graduation months.

Meanwhile with the agencies collecting the OWWA fee, Balladares said that POLO-HK relayed such a plan to them in their last dialogue on the OEC-OWWA fee issue. She said that they expressed opposition to such plan because it will again make OWWA fee mandatory given the imposition of a ban on direct hiring that forces all OFWs to go through agencies to process their contracts.

"This practice, therefore, has the full knowledge of Labatt Salud and he must also know that such also violates even their own rule that employers pay the OWWA fee. This makes POLO-HK not a only a bad joker but an insufferable liar like GMA as well," she stated.
"The OWWA and this government are really desperate in ensuring that the collection continues to flow. While the funds continue to bloat for the government's misuse, OFWs in need like the Annasban workers are deprived of the immediate help that they need. This is exactly the design of the OWWA Omnibus Policies that OFW organizations led by Migrante International have consistently demanded to be scrapped," she added.
Balladares said that their group is preparing to conduct actions against the renewed mandatory collection of OWWA including gathering OFW organizations to again resist the scheme.
"The only mandatory thing for the OWWA is to be responsive to the needs of OFWs. This is the mandate that it has miserably failed to uphold," she concluded.

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