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DH agrees to be dismissed rather than travel to China with employer

31 January 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao
The border crossing at Lowu in Shenzhen used by many OFWs who go to China

A Filipina domestic worker has lost her job for refusing to go with her employer to China amid the scare sparked by an outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus in the mainland.

Welfare officer Marivic Clarin of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said the termination of the worker’s contract was a mutual agreement between the parties, but the helper would be duly compensated.

It happened after both the Consulate and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office issued advisories on Jan 28, reminding employers not to bring their domestic workers across the border amid the health scare.
The worker, who was not identified, went to Clarin on Jan 30 to seek help in computing money due from her employer for her premature dismissal. She was in the third year of her work contract.

Clarin said the employer threatened to fire the Filipina the previous day if she didn’t agree to go to the mainland, but the maid cited the Polo and Consulate advisories.

The Polo advisory reminded employment agencies that it was their duty to explain to employers that the practice was illegal.

As a result, the employer backed down and both parties talked amicably about ending the helper’s employment.

“It’s a mutual agreement naman nila. Di naman sad ang worker,” Clarin said.

The employer wanted to pay the worker only until Feb 11 in lieu of one month’s notice. But when they got to OWWA, Clarin advised the helper to demand payment until the end of February and the employer agreed.
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Clarin also advised the worker to inform the Immigration Department that her dismissal was due to her refusal to go to China so she would be allowed to sign up with a new employer without having to leave Hong Kong.

The OWWA officer said she had received several messages or calls from workers who are concerned that they might catch the Wuhan novel coronavirus because they are still in China and not being allowed by their employers to return to Hong Kong.

She said that given the situation in China now, it might be best for the workers to stay put in their employer’s house to avoid exposing themselves to the contagion.

“Best na nandun lang sila, kung nasa loob lang. Baka mamaya, mas delikado pa kung pauwiin pa sila nang sabay-sabay,” Clarin said.

Another worry by the helpers was whether they or their employers would be sanctioned by the Consulate or POLO for going to China.

“Maraming natakot kasi nasa China pa sila,” Clarin said. “Concerned yung mga nandoon kasi iyon daw ang nakalagay sa advisory.”

What the Polo advisory signed by Officer-in-Charge Antonio Villafuerte said, in fact, was that employment agencies could be subject to suspension or administrative sanctions if they failed to help workers return to Hong Kong as the need arises.

There was no mention of sanctions on the worker the employer, although Polo keeps a blacklist of employers who violate laws or commit abuse against a helper.

Another OFW who called Clarin had a different fear, that she would be quarantined when she goes home for a vacation.

This followed an announcement by Philippine officials that Filipinos who are in Wuhan  would be evacuated and placed in quarantine for 14 days as soon as they land in Manila.

“Ang sabi ko lang, ‘Mag-ingat mula ngayon para sa pag-uwi mo wala kang sintomas, fever or anything na makita pagdating doon sa airport…magdala ka ng alcohol …yung usual na paalala para makaiwas sa infection’,” Clarin said.

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