PHL, 3 other countries sign with the U.S. partnership agreements on migrant workers rights

June 12, 2012 9:48 pm 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, June 12 – The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a non-government Filipino organization based in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday the Philippines and three other countries from South America signed with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) partnership agreements that would ensure migrant workers their right to safe workplaces and full payment of wages as provided for under U.S. laws.

In an e-mail to the Philippines News Agency, MHC said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis signed the agreement for the U.S. while Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose L. Cuisia Jr. signed on behalf of the Philippine government.

Ambassadors Nathalie Cely of Ecuador, Harold Forsyth of Peru, and Jorge Ramon Hernandez Alcerro of Honduras signed for their respective countries.

The signing was held at the DOL headquarters in Washington on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time). The accord augurs well for Filipino migrant workers throughout the U.S.

MHC said that according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of “Filipinos in any combination” in the U.S. increased by 44.5 percent from 2,364,815 in 2000 to 3,416,840.

The protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of Filipinos overseas is among the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy, the MHC said.

In a statement, Cuisia said: "We are very pleased to sign these joint declarations and letters of arrangement with DOL. We assure DOL we will do our part in ensuring the dissemination of helpful information to Filipino workers concerning their right to a safe and healthy working environment, and fair wages and working hours in the U.S., and in assisting them to seek redress when such rights are disregarded or outrightly violated."

Under the agreement, regional enforcement offices of the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will cooperate with Philippine consulates throughout the U.S.

Together, the consulates and Labor Department agencies will reach out to migrant workers with information about U.S. health, safety and wage laws, MHC said.

The partnerships will help the WHD and OSHA to more effectively enforce U.S. laws, especially in high-risk and low-wage industries. This cooperation also will help both agencies identify problems faced by migrant workers and target labor law enforcement efforts.

“Migrant workers make important contributions to our economy,” Solis said.

“Enforcing labor rules means we ensure that companies that play by the rules get an advantage and compete in a level playing field, and that all workers are safe on the job and are fairly compensated,” she added.

DOL now has similar agreements with 11 countries. The Labor Department previously implemented agreements with Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and India.

The U.S. DOL’s WHD is responsible for administering and enforcing laws that establish minimally acceptable standards for wages and working conditions in the country. WHD has over 200 district, field, and area offices across the country with trained personnel available to assist workers. (PNA) scs/RBC/utb

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