Bleeding OFWs dry: Migrant group in HK hits POEA order on mandatory insurance

“The new POEA order on mandatory insurance is just another money-making scheme for the already burdened OFWs that can very well even cost us our job.”

This was declared by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), regarding the POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 04 that enforces a mandatory insurance for OFWs.

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“Mandatory insurance is just another state exaction by the Duterte government from us who are already burdened by the soaring prices of goods in the Philippines and the rapid weakening of the peso. Employers in Hong Kong are already required by law to get insurance for their domestic workers. If they don’t get one, and something happens to their worker, employers will be liable and must make sure that they will be responsible for the expenses. The new mandatory insurance order will just add to the list of expenses that employers are made to pay for and will merely increase friction between the employer and worker,” Balladares-Pelaez explained.

Under the POEA governing board resolution, all returning OFWs with the same employer, or have moved to another, must register with POEA, they must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months, a valid working visa, and a certificate of insurance coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first job abroad.

In the guidelines, it said that all returning overseas Filipino workers who are household service workers with new or renewed contract are required to pay an insurance that will cost USD144 or HK$1,200, before being allowed to return to their work sites.

Though the resolution says that the employer must pay, in reality, it is the workers who will be paying the insurance to prevent arguments with their employer.  “There is no mechanism to ensure that the employer will pay for it. This new fee might even lead to domestic workers losing their jobs because of tension with their employers. We already take home so little of our pay, yet you want to take away the equivalent of almost 30% of a month’s salary for this superfluous fee?” Balladares-Pelaez remarked.

The mandatory insurance came out in time for the coming midterm elections, which is few months from now. According to Balladares-Pelaez, “We cannot help but think that this collection is one way to accumulate more money for the elections.”

Balladares-Pelaez continued, “The Duterte government and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III are responsible for this additional fee for overseas Filipinos. Duterte and Bello are bleeding us dry. The longer they are in power, the more miserable the lives of the Filipino people, and especially migrants, are.”

“But we will not take this sitting down. Expect that we will meet the POEA governing board resolution no. 04 with a protest. We will make sure that this exaction will not push through. We will continue to fight until the mandatory insurance is scrapped!” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

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