Filipino unions call out work practices in the Middle East

PHILIPPINES: Filipino labour groups are clamouring for the abolition of Kafala, an employment practice in the Middle East that they believe is exploitative.

The Kafala system requires an in-country sponsor for all foreign work arrangements, usually the employer, who manages the migrant worker’s visa and legal status.

But labour rights groups allege the system often results ina widespread abuse of the employer’s power.

Nagkaisa labour coalition chairman Sonny Matula claimed the system allowed migrant workers to be treated in slave-like conditions.

“Many of our workers endure maltreatment," he said. "Their employers instil in their minds that they owe them the opportunity to work abroad to earn a living for their families. But this is wrong,” he added.

Jose del Mundo, spokesperson for The Overseas Filipino Worker's Family, an advocacy group, said employers also exploit Kafala to get cheap labour.

“Many domestic workers in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are being paid less than what should be paid. They are treated as a commodity because their culture is different,” he warned.

The activists stressed that labour protection laws in the Middle East generally do not cover Filipino workers.

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