Displaced OFWs in Taiwan yet to receive their dues

Published by rudy Date posted on January 16, 2009

TRAPPED in the web of the global financial crisis, at least 168 retrenched overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan have yet to receive full payment of their salaries for the remaining months of their contract, a migrant group reported.

According to Asia Pacific Migration for Migrants, the retrenched Filipino migrant workers of Walton Advance Engineering Inc. were forced by the Taiwanese broker Century Pacific Corporation to sign contracts that would deprive them of their back salaries.

APMM said Century Pacific had threatened the Filipinos they would not get any separation pay, provision for food and airfare to the Philippines should they refuse to sign the agreement.

Under Taiwan’s labor standards law, migrant workers are entitled to a separation pay equivalent to one-month salary for every year of service and their airfare back home. However, they have to pay 20 percent of income tax as they have only stayed in Taiwan for less than 183 days as stated in the Ministry of Finance’s policy. Unfortunately, most of the retrenched workers in Taiwan were employed for only four to six months.

“Such situation would put the OFWs at a disadvantage because each worker would only get NT$5760 to NT$8640 in separation pay, which is still subject to deductions for income tax, labor insurance, medical insurance, broker’s fees, board and lodging fees, aside from the NT$4,000-worth of airfare back to the Philippines,” the APMM said in its letter furnished to The Manila Times.

To compound the OFWs woes, majority of the laid-off workers paid as much as P93,500 in placement fees to their placement agency.

The group scored the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the one in-charge of securing the welfare and legal rights of around 90,000 Filipinos working and residing in Taiwan, for limiting its intervention to only 50 of the retrenched OFWs who did not sign the agreement Century had forced them to sign.

It said MECO should not make do with simply negotiating for the airfare of the OFWs but rather work for full payment of the workers’ salaries that cover the remaining months of their contract.

In an e-mail sent to The Times, Labbat Liddy Rasul Tañedo of the MECO Labor Affairs, Kaohsiung, said that they have written to the Walton Management and demanded to settle the workers’ remaining salaries, but disclosed she has not been informed about the OFWs being forced to sign onerous contracts.

“Local labor law mandates companies to pay the separation pay of the retrenched workers, but it is our job to negotiate with companies concerned and appeal for the airfare of our workers. Should the company refuse to do so [give full payment of salaries], we will explore the possibility of resorting to legal actions,” Tañedo said in her e-mail.

She added that MECO had established networks with the Legal Aid in various cities and in southern parts of Taiwan should initial engagement with the companies fail.

“It has advised us to exhaust all negotiate measures before filing a case since withdrawing a case would be very difficult. But since we are still negotiating with the companies involved, we have temporarily suspended the processing of job orders for them,” Tañedo said.

“With regards to the forced signing of contracts, we will investigate it and we’ll take appropriate actions if we find the Taiwan broker guilty,” she added.

As for the placement fee, Tanedo said it is standard procedure that they forward to the concerned Philippine Recruitment Agency any request for refund of placement fees of the displaced workers.

“Agencies that refuse or fail to settle the workers claims are recommended sanction at Philippine Overseas Employment Administration,” she said.

MECO also assured that the retrenched OFWs would get their separation pay due them pursuant to the Labor Standards Law and that the Philippine Recruitment Agency (PRA) France Asia Agency was immediately informed of their workers case.

“We have asked them to expedite the processing and the release of their claims. In fact, we have provided the laid-off workers with another letter of endorsement for presentation to their PRA upon arriving in Manila,” Tanedo said in closing. –Llanesca T. Panti, Reporter, Manila Times

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