Filipino migrant workers face multiple threats amidst the global pandemic. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), most of whom are in the services sector, have high exposure to COVID-19 as frontline service providers. They are living and working in more than 238 countries and territories, including countries with high recorded cases, from China, to Italy to the US. They are in hospitals, hotels, sales, telecommunications, aviations, domestic work and cruise ships. They are also in industrial cities and parks where workers are concentrated in apartment buildings and accommodations.
Apart from the threat of the virus to their healths, the deep impact on the world economy threatens their opportunities for work. Hailed as our modern-day heroes, they continue to send remittances to their families in the Philippines even as they face highly insecure situations in their host countries.
OFWs have been stranded, with destination countries imposing travel bans. Many have already lost their jobs with the economy slowing down. For domestic workers, some are threatened of dismissal if they take leaves from work. Others are outright dismissed because their employers have less income to pay them.
For Filipino seafarers, which compose a quarter of the world's maritime workers, it is estimated that 70% will be out of work due to the restrictions in sea travel.
Recruitment agencies fail to comply with their obligations, arguing for force majeure and refusing responsibility for the workers welfare. OWWA has tried to reach out to affected OFWs yet remain ill-equipped with the magnitude of the crisis. The migrant workers are left to fend for themselves in foreign lands.
Our call: Protect our OFWs amidst global pandemic through health and economic safety nets.
Specifically, our policy proposals include:
1. Call on DOLE and DFA to assess the impact of the pandemic to migrant workers and their families and come up with OFW response packages
2. Approve supplemental budget for OWWA and relevant agencies to promote quick and effective response
3. Secure labor and social rights protection in destination countries, including implementation of safety precaution against COVID-19 and access to health and psycho-social services
4. Provide cash aid to migrant worker and families
5. Provide for repatriation services for OFWs wanting to go back to the Philippines
We stand in solidarity with Filipino workers all over the globe! Despite the distance, we shall overcome the the health and economic crises by taking care of each others welfare and fighting for each others rights.