Demand for Filipino helpers falls due to minimum wage

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THE implementation of a monthly minimum wage of US$400 ($520) for Filipino migrant workers in Brunei has caused a 23 per cent decline in the demand of domestic helpers from the Philippines, said Philippine Secretary of Labour and Employment yesterday.

Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz told reporters that despite the declining demand for Filipino workers overseas, the minimum wage will remain at its current rate in order to protect workers against exploitation.

“Due to the nature of work of domestic helpers where they work long hours in a household, six to seven days a week without overtime, it is only right that they are guaranteed at least the minimum wage,” she said.

According to Baldoz, the current minimum wage was introduced as early as 2006 and is not sure as to why the Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Brunei only enforced this in January this year.

Apart from the implementation of a minimum wage which both employer and employee have to agree to, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office is now strictly enforcing the necessary procedures introduced in 2006 that a Filipino worker has to undergo before they can start working overseas.

“There is a package that workers have to go through to ensure job readiness. For example, domestic workers are required to undergo assessment and certification for housekeeping skills and competency, they are required to attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation seminar,” she said.

She said that this package helps to protect overseas Filipino workers from any abuses and exploitative practices from employers as they have prepared themselves and are aware of their basic rights.

Referring to the meeting she had with the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday, Baldoz said that the Brunei government is keen to work with them to set clearer standards for all Filipino migrant workers in the country.

“The Brunei government acknowledges that there is room for improvement in terms of mutually beneficial working terms and conditions for migrant workers here in the country,” she said.

The terms and conditions for skilled and professional workers that will be worked on in the future include minimum working hours, minimum wages, overtime pay, sick leave, social security benefits and occupational health and safety benefits.

She said that because domestic helpers, unskilled and semi-skilled workers are working in a highly vulnerable sector, the current terms and conditions also need to be adhered to by employers while they are working on making improvements.

“They should be able to communicate with family back home, lodging should be free. Employers should follow proper procedure if workers are to be terminated. They are also protected against employers’ practice of withholding passport under our standards.”

She said that although the competition is tough as there are other migrant workers who are willing to be paid at a lower price, they would not risk the welfare of Filipino overseas by reducing the minimum wage.

“The minimum wage still continues and we respect decision of employers who cannot afford to pay for the services of migrant workers. Employers that can afford to pay the wages can continue enjoying our services, otherwise, there are nationalities that can offer services at lower costs so it’s a choice on the part of the employers,” she said.

Despite the implementation of the minimum wage, Baldoz is aware that there are some Filipino workers that are being underpaid simply because the workers themselves are willing to be paid a lower amount than what is stated in their contract.

“At the end of the day, we give them standards of protection and if they want to go below that standard despite the fact that we have informed them about it, it’s their decision,” she said.

The Brunei Times