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Baldoz to return for talks with HK counterpart

07 March 2016

By Daisy CL Mandap

Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz is set to return to Hong Kong middle of next month for another round of talks with her local counterpart, Matthew Cheung.

Sources in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) say the visit of Secretary Baldoz has been tentatively set for Mar. 15. However, the agenda for her meeting with Cheung, the second in seven months, has yet to be set.

In the meantime, DOLE is said to be working on getting newly appointed labor attache Jalilo de la Torre to take up his post ahead of the scheduled talks.

De la Torre, a lawyer and former deputy labatt in Hong Kong, had been expected to arrive as early as January this year, but his appointment has yet to be cleared by the SAR government.

Eman Villanueva, chairperson of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, said he does not expect much from the upcoming meeting between the two labor officials, as not much was achieved from their earlier talk on Aug. 7, hailed as a “breakthrough” by both sides.
“Kahit yong sinasabi nilang ‘sharing of information’ ay hindi naman malinaw kung paano magbebenepisyo ang mga OFW,” said Villanueva.

“Tuloy pa rin naman ang illegal collection (ng placement fee) hanggang ngayon. Madami sa ating mga kababayan ay nagbabayad ng between Php70,000-Php85,000 pa rin”.

During their talk, the labor officials agreed to be more transparent in the amount of fees that should be collected from both employers and domestic workers. Baldoz said she raised concerns about the excessive charges made by employment agencies to OFWs "which put them in debt bondage that defeats their purpose of working abroad".

In response, Cheung reportedly said it was an issue of mutual concern, and stressed that
Hong Kong does not tolerate any abuse of foreign workers and is "very serious about violations of its laws, rules, and regulations, particularly against women."

Since the meeting, Hong Kong has cracked down on employment agencies reported to be charging excessive fees. Last year, nine agencies were convicted of the offence, and most had their licenses cancelled.

In contrast, DOLE has overruled a cancellation order issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration against Findstaff Employment Services, Inc. after it was found guilty of overcharging seven Hong Kong-based domestic workers. In a recent order, DOLE sent the case back to POEA for further hearing.

This came nearly a year after Findstaff’s Hong Kong counterpart, Satisfactory Employment and Travel Services, was found guilty of collecting as much as $21,000 each from four Filipina domestic workers. Satisfactory was fined and ordered to return the excess charge. It has since shut down.

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