Just as the DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs are doing their utmost to transform Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and Philippine Embassies and Consulates into centers of care and excellence for overseas Filipino workers as mandated by President Benigno S. Aquino III, so must recruitment agencies also become so that the government and the private sector can have a seamless system for protecting workers being deployed to overseas labor markets.
This was the challenge posed by Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday to officials and members of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI), one of the country’s leading associations of overseas recruitment agencies.
In a speech delivered on her behalf by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac at the PASEI’s 15th annual general membership meeting, Baldoz emphasized that the promotion of the welfare and protection of the rights of Filipinos who opt to work overseas is the DOLE’s continuing commitment, alongside efforts to facilitate the creation of better local employment opportunities.
“PASEI has been a strong social partner of the government, along with the other industry associations and civil society in promoting the interest and welfare of OFWs. Your efforts to support our anti-illegal recruitment and trafficking campaign and other welfare initiatives are much appreciated. But I believe there are more reforms you can do to professionalize your sector and strengthen initiatives on ethical recruitment. PASEI members must strive to be models of recruitment agencies practicing the highest ethical standards for OFW deployment,” said Baldoz.
She said that to do this, there are basic things that PASEI—and the industry—must do. First, she said the recruitment industry must have a change in business mindset and culture.
“The recruitment of OFWs is not an ordinary business. You deal with human beings who needed to be treated with dignity and respect. You must stop the race for quantity. You must opt for quality deployment,” she said.
Agencies, Baldoz reminded, must first be fully compliant with the laws, rules and regulations and labor standards set by the government for license holders.
She also said recruitment agencies should have strong financial guarantees to deal with the risks of the industry.
“Your agencies should not operate as mom-and-pop stores, but as strong companies who are competitive and financially viable to undertake the requirements of such a complex business, and to be able to deploy top-notch human resources for global businesses.
She said agencies must adopt quality systems certified by international certifying bodies, such the ISO, to ensure they are efficient, transparent and compliant with government regulations and standards.
“Your employees should be properly trained and compensated and imbued with proper work values that are the core of what will spell as ethical recruiters. The use of unauthorized personnel or agents by some unscrupulous agencies must be stopped because this is one factor that renders our workers vulnerable to abuses from the very start of the recruitment process,” she said.
The labor and employment chief further said an important aspect of quality systems is an efficient and effective database and monitoring and reporting system for workers, one that is capable of monitoring departure, situation in the jobsite, and return to the country.
“This becomes essential in times of emergency or crisis situations. Online systems that can connect with those of the POEA, OWWA and the POLO will not only promote efficiency and transparency but help monitor workers better to ensure their continuing welfare,” she said, adding:
“This is why we have asked recruiters of domestic workers to put up a Facebook account where their workers can send positive and negative signals of the status of their employment in the jobsite. There could be other innovative medium that you can look at to help you in the basic responsibility of looking after your workers’ welfare, even after you have deployed them.”
She urged PASEI to deploy highly-skilled workers by adopting good skills-matching systems and investing in training and certification or partnering with employers and other entities which can help develop such workers.
“Employers and agencies should view training and education of workers as investment, not as cost. This will ensure continuous supply of highly-qualified Filipino workers for the global labor market,” she said.
She also urged PASEI members to be selective in choosing business partners. “You should opt for quality employers who share your core values in business, so you can do business with them for the long-term. Quality employers pay good service fees. This will enable you to deliver quality services, in terms of deployment of highly-qualified workers who are protected on both ends of the market, from recruitment to employment, and even until their reintegration back to the Philippines,” she further said.
Finally, Baldoz challenged PASEI to converge with the POEA, OWWA, and POLOs to make DOLE reforms work meaningfully for OFWs. This, she said is imperative because of the many issues and challenges of managing migration, such as the continued growth in deployment and OFW remittances; sustaining global competitiveness and ensuring their welfare through the ups and downs of the global economy; technological changes; volatility of the political landscape in major countries of destinations; and risk of pandemic diseases.
“Maximizing the benefits and minimizing the costs for our OFWs, their families, and the country is something that we should continue to work on together for effective migration governance,” Baldoz said.