Manila: Domestic overseas workers must no longer be excluded in labour codes so that they would not be subjected to abuse while working abroad, labour rights groups said.
The communiqué to be signed by 19 Asian and Middle East labour ministers at the end of the second round of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) in Manila must call on participating governments to "revise labour laws and immigration policies that contribute to abuse, especially the exclusion of domestic workers from labour codes," Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher for Human Rights Watch told Interaksiyon, Channel 5' website.
At the same time, the sponsorship systems that link a worker's residency to his or her employer must be eradicated or revised, said Varia whose group joined the meeting of labour rights group that was also held at the start of ADD's three-day meeting in Manila on Tuesday.
The ADD communiqué must incorporate "full protection of migrant workers' human rights," prescribed Ellene Sana, executive director of the Centre for Migrant Advocacy in the Philippines.
The ADD should also "develop a concrete action plan with benchmarks to monitor their progress (on this aspect)," Sana said.
Moreover, all ADD participating governments must ratify and implement international labour and human rights standards such as ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, said the labour rights groups.
The labour ministers who are ADD participants must find time to hold dialogues with members of labour rights groups, said William Gois, coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia, a regional network of more than 200 migrants' rights groups.
"We want to know what is going on (at the ADD meeting), we want to be part of the process, and we demand opportunities for genuine participation (of civil society)," said Gois.
Labour rights groups also discussed at their meeting standardized contracts with comprehensive labour protections for migrant domestic workers; and the implementation of reference wage as an alternative to minimum wage.
Explaining why they are seeking more protection for domestic overseas workers, the groups said that many domestic overseas workers do not have a weekly rest day and limits to working hours.
They have no information about their rights, face abuses such as deception about their jobs, heavy debt burdens from excessive recruitment fees, unpaid wages, and hazardous work conditions, said the labour rights groups.
They have limited access to redress, and are often trapped by forced labor and trafficking, the rights groups added.
Scheduled to attend Manila's ADD meeting were 11 labour ministers of labour-sending countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam; and eight labour ministers of labour-receiving countries include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea were categorized as observers.
The first round of ADD was hosted by UAE in 2008, an offshoot of the Colombo Process, a regional meeting of labour-sending countries.
There are nine million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide. They sent $ 20 billion to their relatives in the Philippines in 2011, making them the world's fourth largest sources of foreign remittances.