Consulates ink pact with US labor dept. on Filipino workers’ rights

Published by rudy Date posted on November 16, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO—“We’ve investigated 2,000 cases and recovered $13.8 million in unpaid overtime and minimum wage violations in the health care industry alone involving Filipino workers as victims,” said Susana Blanco, director of the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco.

Blanco spoke before signing an alliance agreement with four Philippine Consulates in a ceremony on Nov. 14 at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.

The consulates’ agreement with the US Labor Department’s wage and hour division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is aimed at promoting training and outreach for workplace safety and pay rules among Filipino workers in four US states and three Pacific Islands.

Blanco explained that the agreement with the consulates could help her office track down Filipino workers who should get a share of wages that were stolen from them but had been recovered by her division.

Blanco explained that Filipinos workers must be informed of their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor a, minimum wage and overtime provisions, as well as the H-1B and H-2A non-immigrant programs and temporary and agricultural guest worker programs.

Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco, said 13 workers die in the workplace each day. “We know that certain industries, like construction where there’s a lot of Filipino workers, are hazardous. We hope the alliance could help drive down such incidents.”
Atha says OSHA wants to disseminate more information and conduct outreach to Filipino workers with the help of the partnership with the consulates. He explained that currently his office is capable of tracking only Hispanics involved in workplace mishaps, injuries and fatalities.

“But we will start tracking for Filipinos, and this alliance with the consulates will help us get information and get out information to Filipino workers about their workplace rights and responsibilities,” Atha said.

The Dept. of Labor officials formally signed the agreement with Consul Marciano Paynor Jr. of San Francisco; Consul Bayani Manibin from Agana, Guam; Consul Julius Torres from Honolulu; and Consul Maria Hellen Barber-de la Vega from Los Angeles.
The agreement covers Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

Paynor explained that while the Philippines has had similar agreements in critical areas like countries in the Middle East with numerous overseas Filipino workers, “the Philippines is the first Asian country to sign such agreement with the United States.”

He added, “Ten percent of the 3.8 million Filipinos in the U.S. are not yet U.S. citizens and are therefore covered by the agreement we are signing.”

William Tamayo, regional attorney in San Francisco for the U.S. government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told that his federal agency, which enforces the nation’s laws against employment discrimination, is working out a similar agreement with the Philippine government. –Rene Ciria-Cruz, US Bureau

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