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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baldoz urges labor-receiving nations to strengthen protection of migrant workers

Governments around the world, especially labor-receiving host nations, must share in the global collective effort to protect and uplift the welfare of vulnerable migrant workers by aligning themselves with the international treaties or conventions of the International Labor Organization, and by promoting and strengthening protective social and economic legislation to prevent abuses and ensure proper working conditions, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said yesterday.

Speaking at The Regional Conference of Migrant Workers sponsored by LO Norway, the Norwegian trade union confederation and its local Philippine trade union partner, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Baldoz said nations hosting migrant workers, especially women, must strive to protect them to help lessen their vulnerability and the social costs of international migration.

Baldoz's call is part of current campaign being waged by the Philippine government and its tripartite partners, advocacy groups, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders to fast-track the ratification of ILO Convention 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers following its adoption during the 100th International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in June this year.

Baldoz expressed the hope that by year's end, the instrument of ratification can be sent to the Congress of the Philippines for endorsement.

"Addressing the need for labor and social legislation protective of migrant workers, particularly domestic workers, is a step in the right direction," she said.

"Much has to be done by the labor-receiving countries of the world as only a few of them have ratified the ILO Conventions," she added.

Baldoz explained to her audience that for the Philippines, "the protection of our citizens especially our contract workers abroad, is one of the pillars of our foreign policy".

"The Philippine Constitution clearly emphasizes the rights of our workers whether organized or unorganized, and whether local or overseas, and the domestic workers are included in this light," she said.

Baldoz further said that the Philippines has an enabling law that gives substance to the Constitutional protection on the rights of our workers when they go and get work overseas, referring to the Labor Code from which a separate law had sprung, Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, as amended.

Relating the Philippines's experience in successfully managing worker migration, Baldoz said the country exempts overseas workers from paying taxes; maintains 39 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) and Filipino Workers Resource Centers that assist the overseas Filipino workers; and implements programs covering the entire cycle of labor migration prior to departure, onsite, and when they are about to return or have returned.

She added 11 of the 22-point labor and employment agenda of President Aquino III is devoted to the welfare and protection of the OFWs. "And internationally, where social and labor legislation are deficient or absent in host countries, the Philippines is constantly pursuing bilateral agreements to ensure the protection of its overseas workers," she said.

Furthermore, Baldoz said the Philippines is now working very hard with its co-members in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) concerning the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Held around the theme, "Organizing: A Trade Union Response to Labour Migration", the three-dayregional conference opened on November 8 with a message by Counsellor Knut-Are SprautenOkstad of the RoyalNorwegian Embassy in the Philippines and the joint remarks of labor leader Daniel L. Edralin, chair of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, and Advisor for Asia of the LO Norway, Diis Bohn.

The conference was attended by participants from various labor receiving and sending countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Norwegian trade union leader Diis Bohnapplauded the Philippines's campaign to ratify ILO Convention 189, saying Norway had been hoping to be the first to ratify the Convention. She also congratulated the Philippines for taking the lead in the global effort.

"I am impressed with the comprehensive and substantial work you done,leaving no stone unturned in addressing all possible issues to organize responses and advance solutions to the situations and challenges confronting migrant work worldwide," Baldoz finally said as she thanked both LO Norway and the APL for conducting the regional conference.

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