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OFWs ‘fear jobless future’ if sent home en masse

20 October 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao
Rev Joram urges Filipino workers to unionize as their protection against evils of contractualization

Many Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong are gripped by fear of mass repatriation if the current political crisis gets worse because there are no jobs waiting for them at home, according to a militant community leader.

Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau and vice chairman of Filipino Migrant Workers Union, said OFWs also worry about losing their employment if their employers lose their jobs or move to other countries.
He spoke at the FMWU’s 21st anniversary event on Sunday, Oct 20, on Chater Road.
The FMWU event began at 9:30am with a holy mass offered by Rev Joram Calimutan and attended by more than 100 Filipino workers. The priest congratulated the workers union for continuing to fight for the domestic workers’ rights.

Fr Joram cited the importance of unionism as he blasted job contractualization that President Duterte has failed to stamp out despite his promise in 2016. He said the “endo” or end of contract policy is the reason why Filipino workers continue to work abroad. 

Villanueva says repatriation fear is genuine. 
Villanueva said there is genuine reason to worry because the Duterte administration has not fulfilled its promises to improve the economy and create jobs at home.

“Sa ating mga Pilipino sa labas ng bansa, totoong totoo ang sinasasabi ngayon na sa loob ng nakaraang tatlong taon, wala namang tunay na pagbabagong naganap, lumala pa,” Villanueva said.

“Kasi ngayon sa nagaganap sa Hong Kong, napakarami kong naririnig na mga kababayan natin, nangangamba na baka mapauwi sa Pilipinas…nangangamba na baka dahil sa kaguluhan sa Hong Kong, mawalan ng trabaho at mapuwersa tayong umuwi sa Pilipinas.”

Villanueva said it doesn’t matter whether one is pro or anti-Duterte. “Alam natin sa puso at isip natin na pag nawalan tayo ng trabaho rito at napilitang umuwi sa Pilipinas, nanga ang buo nating pamilya,” Villanueva said.

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That goes to show no genuine change had taken place in the Philippines because, if there was, no Filipino worker would worry about losing her job in Hong Kong, he said.

“Mangangamba ka bang magkaroon ng mass repatriation kapag lumala ang krisis dito, kung alam mong pagdating sa Pilipinas meron kang kabuhayan, meron kang trabaho, at meron kang mataas na sahod? Eh, baka mas marami pang mag-volunteer na umuwi.”
In fact, from 5,000 OFWs leaving the country daily previously, the outflow has increased to 6,000, Villanueva said.

Earlier in October, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he was closely monitoring the Hong Kong crisis and did not rule out repatriating the more than 200,000 OFWs here.

The government would implement its voluntary repatriation policy if there was a military crackdown on Hong Kong protesters, he told Manila media. He would not discount mandatory or forced repatriation if the peace and order situation worsened, he said.
The event featured various presentations, including this number from FMWU artists

Rev Joram cited one evil offshoot of contractualization a female worker in Southern Luzon revealed to him years ago. When her work contract was about to end, the manager called her into his office and asked pointblank: “Lie down or lay off?”

He said there had been many such reports of indecent proposals as job contractualization continued with firms reviewing contracts every five months to fire or extend workers. The priest said this is against the Labor Code, which states an employee has the right to be made regular after six months of probation.

Worse, he said, a new bill proposing the probationary period be made two years is in the works, “which means contractualization forever”. This will only drive more fathers and mothers to leave their families to work overseas, the priest said.

This is why unionism is necessary for the workers’ survival, he said. Despite the government’s “no union, no strike” policy, workers must continue to unionize because it is their life, otherwise their option would be “lie down or lay off”.

Also addressing the event was FMWU chair Bing Yungco and leaders of various OFW organizations.

The half-day celebration featured cultural presentations and dances by members of FMWU’s four chapters, friends and supporters. A raffle draw of cash and gift prizes capped the event. .
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