The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait announced yesterday that the embassy is resuming the processing of documents for the deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait. - AFP

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: After the recent approval by the Philippine's Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III to resume sending Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait announced the embassy is resuming the processing of documents for the deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait.

In a memo distributed to foreign recruitment agencies on April 18, 2020, acquired by Kuwait Times yesterday, Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Nasser Mustafa announced the commencement of the issuance of welfare clearance to foreign recruitment agencies, to be followed by the renewal of accreditation and validation of job orders starting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the start of receiving and verification of individual employment contracts for newly-hired domestic helpers will commence on Sunday, April 25. Similarly, the lifting of the ban on deployment of workers under article 18 (skilled and semi-skilled workers), renewal of accreditation and revalidation of job orders will also begin on the same day.

"We are very happy to resume real work again. It was a long and tedious work ban for domestic helpers, meetings after meetings and sleepless nights. Now we are busy doing our work and we hope to receive new domestic helpers from Manila very soon," said Mariam Macapudi, President of the Filipino Association of Secretaries of Employment Agencies in Kuwait (Fil-Aseak), a group comprising of 200 licensed recruitment agencies.

According to Macapudi, the ban was the longest imposed by the Philippine government. "It was long because of the coronavirus pandemic. If not for many uncontrolled events including the pandemic, talks on contracts and other provisions sought by the Philippine government would have been resolved," she said.

"We have been out of business for the last one year and a half. Since late 2019, the Philippine Embassy has suspended the deployment of domestic helpers, while 2020 was out of the question because of the pandemic. We are happy that everything is settled and we can start now," she added. Besides Fil-Aseak, another group of agencies recognized by the embassy is the Filipino Clients Relations Officers (FILCRO), with 90 active agencies. The Philippines agreed to redeploy its workers provided that Kuwait agreed to a tripartite contract agreement drafted by the Philippines and Kuwait technical working group.

Provisions in the new tri-party contract include providing the housemaid with decent and appropriate housing equipped with all the necessities, providing suitable food and clothing, providing medical treatment in case of sickness pursuant to the healthcare insurance system of Kuwait, salary must be paid at the end of the month - not less than the designated amount signed by both parties (minimum of KD 120), compensating the housemaid in case of injury during work, employers must issue a valid residency for the duration of contract, handle all the expenses to bring the housemaid, and in case of death, the employer must also bear the expenses of the deceased body.

The new tripartite contract also mentions that the employer is not allowed to assign the worker outside Kuwait without an agreement from the worker. The housemaid is also allowed to use the phone outside working hours, provided that she maintains the privacy of the household and in a manner consistent with public morals. Working hours must be 12 hours daily and employers must allow the housemaid to rest for eight continuous hours.

They must have a fully-paid weekly day off, annual leave, end-of-service benefit or one full month for every year of service, plus a bonus equivalent to one month's salary annually. The employer is not allowed to keep the passport in their possession. The employer needs to provide an economy ticket to the worker at the end of her contract, and in case of conflict the case will be referred to the Public Authority for Manpower.

On Jan 3, 2020, the Philippines imposed the ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait following the killing of a housemaid named Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende on Dec 28, 2019. The ban was lifted a month later after consultations with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the filing of appropriate charges against the perpetrators and after Manila and Kuwait City agreed the full implementation of a harmonized employment contract for Filipino domestic workers.

On Dec 30, 2020, a death verdict by hanging was handed by the criminal court to a Kuwaiti woman who killed Villavende. The woman's husband was sentenced to four years in jail for covering up and not reporting the crime. As of June 2020, there were nearly 680,000 domestic workers in Kuwait - 325,000 from India and nearly 150,000 from the Philippines. Local and their international partner agencies are allowed to charge employers up to KD 990 for hiring new domestic helpers.