MECO betrayed 1,000 retrenched OFWs in Taiwan in 2009

Migrante International today welcomed calls from members of the Senate to investigate the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the de facto “Philippine Embassy” in Taiwan.

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, it is only fitting that the MECO be placed under scrutiny after its “betrayal of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were illegally laid-off and retrenched in Taiwan in 2009 when the global and financial crisis affected multinational Taiwanese companies.”

“Now we are learning that MECO officials have been receiving all sorts of allowances, incentives and bonuses when their performance has been found lacking in the past. We propose to the Senate to also investigate if MECO officials likewise received incentives and bonuses from Taiwanese companies and brokers for allowing massive lay-offs and illegal retrenchment in 2009,” he said.

He said that the MECO failed to address massive violations against labor rights of at least 1,000 OFWs who were retrenched without separation pays, provision for food and airfare to the Philippines. The OFWs, he said, were also made to pay 20 percent income tax despite having only stayed in Taiwan for less than 183 days, as stated in the Ministry of Finance’s policy. Most of the retrenched workers in 2009 were only employed in Taiwan for four to six months.

Of the 1,000 OFWs, 161 came from Walton Advanced Engineering Inc., 162 from Inotera, 127 from Tripod, 62 from Ichia Technology, 42 from Chipmos, 32 from Sintek, and 400 more from different Taiwanese companies.

Martinez said that any employer can only legally terminate the services of its employee if said worker has committed a crime against the company or has violated any provision in its contract as stated in Article 282 of the Labor Code, or if the employee decides to quit by submitting a resignation letter of not less than a month’s notice.

“In the case of the 1,000 OFWs, they were not given any compensation. They even had to pay for their own airfare back home. All these violations were committed with the full knowledge of MECO officials,” Martinez said.

Complaints from the OFWs, he said, clearly indicated the culpability of the Philippine government through the MECO in Taiwan. “MECO officials acted in defense of the companies and their brokers by forcing them to sign a voluntary resignation paper and quit claims instead of taking action in favor of OFWs.” ###