TORONTO--Employers hiring caregivers from the Philippines are now strictly required to have their employment contracts verified with the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) before the documents are processed by the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Manila and the workers allowed to leave for Canada.
The new requirement was in response to reports of bogus employers, workers being released upon arrival, and distressed workers being terminated or abandoned by their employers.
To have the documents verified, the employment contract should include the condition that the employer, shall among others, be responsible for the cost of two-way transportation to and from the place of origin, and for health coverage of the worker, where applicable, from the time of arrival until the provincial health insurance applies.
Employers are also required to terminate employment only for just cause, and in case of work-related deaths, to be responsible for the repatriation of remains.
The standard employment contract submitted by employers to Service Canada for issuance of the Labour Market Opinion (LMO), usually does not contain those requirements. A positive LMO is required for the employer to recruit workers outside Canada.
The additional contract requirements have been part of the regulations by the Philippine government for workers being deployed overseas. In addition, beginning December, 2006, agencies and recruiters are prohibited from collecting placement fees from this household service workers.
This was disclosed by Frank Luna, consular officer in charge of the POLO in Toronto. Asked on the basis of the additional conditions after the LMO, Luna, a former practising lawyer in Toronto, explained that “the contract, while approved for LMO purposes, is still a private contract between the employer and the worker. That being the case, such contract is still subject to the laws and policies of the Philippines, which can prescribe additional conditions to protect the interests of its nationals going abroad.”
Luna added that terms and conditions in the contract that are submitted to Service Canada provide only the minimum labour standard requirements, and may not cover or address fully the foreign workers' special needs. In this regard, he said “contracting parties to a private agreement can stipulate on additional conditions, provided such terms and conditions are not contrary to law, morals, public policy, or customs and traditions of both Canada and the Philippines.”
“There is nothing contrary to law or policy of both countries in the additional provisions that we require, Luna clarified, adding that, “Canadian legal precedents, in fact, lean towards interpreting contracts in favour of enhancing workers' benefits and rights.”
At the same time, the labour official also said that laws and regulations in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba prohibit the collection of recruitment or placement fees from workers.
He asked that those violating the “no-placement fee” policy in those provinces and victimizing Filipino workers, be reported to the POLO and to the provincial officials concerned for appropriate action. Labour accords signed by the Philippines with Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Manitoba, and the forthcoming memorandum of understanding with Alberta, expressly provide against the collection of recruitment fees from the workers, with such costs to be charged to the employer.
“At this time that we are looking forward to more Filipino workers coming to Canada, those unscrupulous individuals should now be identified and prevented from taking advantage of the more vulnerable sectors of our society in order that the goals of ethical and orderly deployment of our workers as contemplated in our bilateral agreements are achieved,” Luna said.
The POLO has outlined the new procedure and requirements as follows:
1. The additional provisions in the contract that the employer has to conform by her/his signature (to be attached as an additional page to the contract):
“ ADDENDUM TO EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT
The Employer undertakes to be responsible for:
1. cost of 2-way transportation to and from Canada;
2. health coverage for the employee before the provincial health insurance applies;
3. termination of employment shall only be for cause;
4. in case of work-related death, cost of repatriation of remains to the Philippines;
2. With the signed addendum, the Employer shall forward to the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) the signed employment contract and copy of the Labour Market Opinion for our verification by POLO and authentication by the Philippine Consulate, enclosing a pre-paid return envelope. The original signatures of the Employer on the documents (even if faxed or scanned) are required for verification.
The mailing address is: Philippine Overseas Labour Office, 801-161 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto, ON, M4p 1J5.
3. Verification fee is US10.00, payable to the Philippines Overseas Labour Office and consular authentication fee of CAD$28.75 payable to the Philippine Consulate General, preferably in money order (which costs less than bank drafts or certified cheques). Official receipts will be issued.
4. We shall be sending back the verified and authenticated documents to the Employer in the return envelope provided, who shall in turn send the documents over to the worker for submission to POEA for his/her exit clearance.
5. In urgent cases, i.e. when flights have already been booked, the POLO may on request, and after having already verified the documents, advise the POEA to release the exit clearance ahead of the original verified documents.
Philippine Overseas Labor Office