Migrante celebrates victories of OFWs in Hong Kong, Europe, Taiwan, US this September

Migrante International celebrated the recent series of milestone victories achieved by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in different parts of the world this month of September.

Migrante International Garry Martinez enumerated four (4) landmark cases filed and advocated by OFWs that have won in courts in Hong Kong, Europe, Taiwan and the United States. “All have been won as a result of the resounding support, unity and relentless struggle of our compatriots abroad. This is testament that OFWs united can and will triumph through untiring resolve and collective action.”

Martinez cited the recent wage hike for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, the success of the immigration case of a Filipino au pair in Denmark, the release of a jailed migrant leader in Taiwan, and the triumph of the Florida 15 against their human traffickers.

Wage hike in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government recently announced a HK$180 increase in the monthly minimum allowable wage (MAW) of foreign domestic workers. The MAW has effectively been increased from HK$3,740 to HK$3,920, while the food allowance was also raised by HK$100 making it HK$875 for foreign domestic workers.

Filipino domestic workers had since been at the forefront of the fight for higher wages, better working conditions and against social exclusion in Hong Kong. There are at least 140,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, the biggest number followed only by Indonesians. The recent wage hike is the highest since 2004.

Rights of au pairs in Europe

Because of her dedication to her work as an au pair and because of her work as an organizer and educator of au pairs, Ms. Jean Gocotano was hired by the FOA (Fag og Arbejde – Au Pair Network) to work with them.

However, Gocotano, herself an au pair who has worked in Denmark for several years, was in danger of being deported back to the Philippines after her work permit expired last month. The FOA, a Danish organization, along with the Filipino community, appealed to the Danish government to consider her desire to work as an au pair organizer and extend her working permit.

Last week, after vigorous lobbying efforts by OFWs in Denmark, Gocotano’s appeal was granted by the Danish government. Her stay in Denmark is a positive step in the fight against abuses and exploitation that have hounded au pairs in the past years.

Release of migrant leader in Taiwan jail

Helen Carumba was arrested early this year in Taiwan on the charge of falsification of documents. She was detained in an immigration detention facility for four months. She was then sentenced by the Taiwan courts to 12 months (later reduced to 10) and was transferred to a regular prison. Her four-month detention was not reported by the Taiwanese National Immigration Agency (NIA) and was not factored in her sentence. Carumba was a former officer of Migrante’s Taiwan chapter.

In response, Migrante International and its chapters around the world led a campaign for the immediate release of Carumba stating the weaknesses on the part of the NIA, the lack of implementing guidelines in Taiwan’s newly-amended Immigration Act and gross negligence in the part of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the de-facto Philippine embassy in Taiwan.

A jointly-coordinated mass action was conducted on August 28. Migrante chapters and networks in Hong Kong and the Philippines led protest and lobbying efforts at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in their respective areas, while OFWs in Taiwan picketed the NIA Office. An open letter addressed to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was also circulated and submitted, with 57 regional, national and local organizations from 15 countries as signatories.

As a result, Carumba was released and repatriated back to the Philippines last September 18. She is presently preparing to file charges against negligent Philippine officials.

Triumph of trafficked Florida 15

Eleven months after the first meeting of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Migrante International’s affiliate organization in the US, with the Philippine Consulate of New York in October 2011, the 15 victims of labor trafficking from Florida, also known as the Florida 15, finally received an initial subsistence fund amounting to $333.33 per victim. This, according to NAFCON, is a small and initial victory in the long pursuit for justice for the workers.

Florida 15 is a group of Filipino workers who were recruited between 2008 to 2009 by the Philippine-based San Villa Ship Management Co. owned by Jojo Villanueva to work at different country clubs and hotels in Florida as waiters, cooks, and housekeepers. They were required to pay up to $2500-7000 each for placement fees and when they started working, were given only $6 per hour as opposed to the payrate of $16-17 per hour, and without overtime pay. Many of them were also paid only once a month and paychecks were issued very late.

Of present, the Florida 15 is in the process of obtaining T-visa, allowing certain victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the US.

“We salute our fellow OFWs. OFWs around the world stand tall and are inspired by their triumph. We have come a long way. Let all the world know that OFWs know their rights and are ready to fight for what is just and due them. Let this be a warning to perpetrators and abusers that we are more than ready to face all hurdles, abuses and violations that come our way,” Martinez said. ###