Dubai: Abusive and exploitative employers of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in the UAE and across the globe will not be able to employ Filipino workers as per a proposed five-year phase-out programme over the next five years, a top Philippine labour official told Gulf News.

“My instruction was to come out with a plan so that the very vulnerable domestic helpers with respect to employers with a record of maltreatment will be disqualified and therefore what would remain will be the employers who are treating our HSWs humanely and who comply with our reform package,” Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told Gulf News in a phone interview from Manila.

“It cannot be an absolute phase out. And this is not [going to be] done on a country-to-country basis, it’s an employer-to-employer basis. Wherever they are, it will be the records that will speak on the actions that will be taken,” Baldoz added.

The clarification came following reports in Manila that the Philippine government is proposing to stop the deployment of HSWs that could affect around 180 countries in the next five years.

In June this year, the UAE, along with the rest of the GCC countries, was included on the list of 32 compliant countries by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The list categorised the UAE as “compliant without prejudice to negotiations for the protection of household service workers.”

Reports of maltreatment and non-payment of wages, however, continue to abound according to I3K, a group of Filipinos, the majority of whom are housemaids in the UAE.

“Roughly half of our members who work as housemaids here have employers who do not comply with the rules, especially regarding wages. It is stipulated that we should receive a minimum $400 [Dh1,469 a month] but many of our members receive just around Dh700 to Dh800,” Vilma Rull, I3K President, said.

Exit strategy

Baldoz said that under the proposed programme, to be ready by the year-end, a watch list for “responsible employers” will be prepared by Philippine missions worldwide. And a stricter screening process and implementation will be carried out.

“We’ve already been doing that here. In fact, I have already instructed a review of employers in our database with derogatory records,” Labour attaché Delmer Cruz said, adding that he welcomes plans to make the screening process stricter.

But Rull said that if the government only targets abusive and exploitative employers recruitment agencies and erring employers will always find a way to get around the system like getting bogus employers and swapping HSWs.

While the plan is still being discussed, Baldoz emphasised that another focus of this five-year reform package is to provide alternative jobs for housemaids who are graduates of bachelor degree courses for them to be able to practise their profession.

Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Centre, a migrant advocacy group in Manila, meanwhile, lauded this government decision.

“The life of a domestic worker, wherever she is, is fraught with physical, emotional, and financial vulnerabilities. I am glad that the Philippine government is planning an exit strategy for this particular sector with an eye towards better jobs here at home.”