29/09/2021, 19:26 Fragile dreams: Stories of migrant workers from the Philippines: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Asia Unpaid wages Aside from gender-based violence, migrant workers suffer from other unfair labour practices such as wage theft. Employers are also taking advantage of the various limitations set by the pandemic (https://www.fes.de/en/displacement-migration-integration/articlepage-flight-migration-integration/a-pandemic-reset-for-migrant-workers). Jose, 34, was a cafe supervisor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Their sales plummeted due to the virus, his employer said. They needed to cut costs. After 1 year and 10 months, he was terminated. He remembered the numerous tasks he did for the cafe which were way beyond his work scope. He thought about the numerous times his employer failed to give him his salary. While working there, Jose experienced abdominal pain, change in his bowel habits and loss of appetite. He wanted to have the symptoms checked, but with no medical insurance, he couldn’t shoulder the medical bills. Jose decided not to report his employer to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) as it means losing the accommodation provided by his company. He was sick, that much he knew, and could not afford to be homeless. In July 2020, Jose was finally repatriated. He was later on admitted at a local private hospital where he was diagnosed with Rectosigmoid New Growth; a tumour was found in his liver. He needed to be operated on immediately. Jose’s medical bill amounted to 183,277.85 pesos. His total unpaid salary amounted to 1,813 USD or 90,008 pesos. Jose knew that if only he was paid right, he’d have something to start with. He eventually contacted CMA Phils. Inc. in August 2020 to ask for assistance in processing his DOLE-AKAP, a cash assistance programme provided by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment. He also wanted to file a case against his former employer. Exploitative agencies Like Jennifer and Jose, Mona left the Philippines to pursue better opportunities abroad. But once deployed, she was abused by both her employer and the recruitment agency. Mona was forced to clean other homes beside that of her employer. This was not part of her contract, as her employer already had five children to look after. Exhausted from being overworked, Mona oftentimes had nothing to eat. Her employer had no interest in making sure she ate. She could buy her own food, but she was also underpaid. The meagre amount she would receive also never came on time. Mona had barely enough money to send home. Both her recruitment agency and employer were aware that Mona suffers from a kind of bone disease. She was hospitalized twice during her deployment. Her agency’s only response was, “Magtiiis ka dyan kasi malaki binayad niyan.” (“Endure it because your employer paid a huge amount for you.”) Due to over exhaustion and malnutrition, Mona was unable to work. She begged her employer to send her back home, but instead, she was taken to the police. Instead of a flight back to the Philippines, Mona was forced to stay with her recruitment agency. Mona along with other domestic workers who had no place to go was forced to make the agency’s office their temporary home. With no income and no support provided by the agency, the Overseas Filipino Workers had to eat only once a day. They were also subjected to forced labour within the office. To make matters worse, her agency threatened to physically hurt them if they wouldn’t sign a document saying they will not file any charges against the agency. Fearing for their lives, Mona was left with no choice. To escape this ordeal, Mona and her fellow migrant workers borrowed money for a oneway plane ticket. On 29 October 2020, she arrived back home. Finally home https://asia.fes.de/news/philippines-migrant-workers 2/4

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