Twenty-one overseas Filipino health care workers who complained of employment contract violation had received a full range of support from the DOLE’s ‘Assist WELL’ Program, initially from the Department of Labor and Employment’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait, and immediately thereafter upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Deputy Administrator Amuerfina R. Reyes reported to Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz that the 21 workers sought the assistance of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait for the alleged violation of work contract of their employer KINVCO.
The reported violations included contract substitution; underpayment of salary; non-payment of overtime pay, rest day pay, and holiday pay; no sick leave; no food or food allowance of KD25 per month; and illegal salary deductions.
In Kuwait, the POLO conducted conciliation proceedings between the OFWs and their overseas employers, but they failed to reach an agreement, hence, the 21 workers asked the POLO to help them return to the country. They arrived in the Philippines on 9 February.
Deputy Administrator Reyes, who leads the Assist Well Processing Center Management Committee, reported that the DOLE immediately provided assistance to all the 21 workers.
“They were received at the airport by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Repatriation and Assistance Division and provided with initial briefing and assistance. Fifteen of them agreed to proceed to the OWWA Assist Well Processing Center while the rest decided to go home and were provided with transportation services,” said Reyes.
OWWA Administrator Rebecca J. Calzado also met the workers and they were likewise briefed on the Assist WELL program; registered in the e-Tracking System; oriented on the Balik ‘Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay livelihood program; underwent stress debriefing session from the UGAT Foundation, OWWA’s NGO partner; and were provided with free legal services by the POEA lawyers.
The repatriated OFWs filed their complaints to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and to the POEA for their claims and for their employers’ contract violation, respectively.
Baldoz informed that the returning OFWs were also provided with employment assistance by the POEA and the Bureau of Local Employment. “Of the 21 repatriated workers who stayed in the OWWA hostel, eight were able to find possible overseas employment, two for local employment, while one opted not to be referred yet,” the Labor Chief said.
The DOLE’s Assist WELL program has been strengthened upon the issuance of Administrative Order (AO) No. 21 series of 2016 by DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz.
“The AO mandates for the establishment of Assist WELL Processing Centers in DOLE offices and agencies —the POEA, OWWA, TESDA, National Reintegration Center for OFWs, Bureau of Local Employment, Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, Legal Service, and DOLE Regional Offices—to ensure synchronized and systematic delivery of assistance to returning and/or repatriated OFWs,” said Baldoz.
The components of “WELL” are Welfare, Employment, Livelihood, and Legal Assistance.
The Welfare Assistance, which is provided by OWWA, includes airport assistance, temporary shelter/accommodation, transport assistance, emergency medical assistance and stress debriefing.
The Bureau of Local Employment, POEA, and TESDA handle the Employment Assistance, which includes job placement referral for local or overseas employment, and training, competency assessment and certification
The Livelihood Assistance is carried out by the NRCO, OWWA, and Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, includes entrepreneurial development orientation, livelihood skills training with starter kit, hands-on business mentoring and support, and business loan assistance.
The Legal Assistance, which is handled by the POEA in cooperation with the DOLE’s Legal Service, includes legal advice, conciliation-mediation services, assistance in the preparation and filing of complaints of illegal recruitment, recruitment violations, or disciplinary action cases.