Kuwait, Philippines work on a deal to protect domestic workers

The Philippines and Kuwait are one step closer to signing a standard employment contract to ensure Filipino Household Service Workers (HSW) are protected in the Gulf state, officials said on Tuesday.

This followed a joint Kuwaiti and Filipino committee meeting on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 to discuss the matter.

Both sides agreed to hold the talks after the Philippines imposed a ban on the deployment of its citizens to Kuwait on Jan. 15 after the death of a 26-year-old Filipino worker, Jeanelyn Villavende, who was killed by her employer last December.

In a statement released on Monday night, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait said that the joint committee meeting discussed several clauses to protect Filipino domestic workers, which both sides are looking at institutionalizing through a standard employment contract.

Among the provisions discussed were the use of mobile phones outside of working hours, nonconfiscation of passports, welfare provisions such as food and clothing, and medical care cover. Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano led the Philippine delegation.

The Kuwaiti side was led by Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Sami Al-Hamad, and Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) Deputy Director General for the Employment Sector Abdullah Saleh Al-Mutawah.

They were joined by Philippine Chargé d’Affaires and Consul General to Kuwait Mohd. Noordin Pendosina Lomondot, and Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh Al-Thuwaikh.

Assuring the Filipino delegation of Kuwait’s commitment, Al-Hamad said that proper procedures were in place for the recruitment of domestic labor, adding “both sides agreed to cooperate and ensure that the rights of Kuwait’s Filipino diaspora are protected.”

In 2018, months after the remains of Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis were found in a freezer in Kuwait, the governments of the Philippines and Kuwait signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to protect Filipino workers in the Gulf nation.

A joint committee led by senior Philippine and Kuwaiti officials was created to follow up on the implementation of the agreement and suggest recommendations to ensure the well-being of Filipino domestic workers.

Monday’s meeting coincided with Labor Secretary Bello’s visit to Kuwait from Feb. 1-3.

During the course of the three-day visit, Bello met with top Kuwaiti government officials — including Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Anas Khalid Nasir Al-Saleh and Justice Minister Fahad Muhammad Mohsen Al-Afasi — and discussed matters related to the 2,30,000 Filipinos living in the country.

He also met several Filipino community members and reiterated the Philippine government’s commitment to ensure their welfare. More than 60 percent of Filipinos in Kuwait work in the domestic labor sector.

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