The National 13 April 2014

Series of seminars held to inform Filipinos of labour rights


ABU DHABI // Filipinos are often unaware that their rights have been breached, accepting jobs with inferior terms and conditions, legal experts have said.

Michael Barney Almazar, a Filipino lawyer in Dubai, said this could change soon.

“A woman is entitled to the same wage as that of a man if she does the same work,” said Mr Almazar, who serves as the director of the commercial department of Gulf Law in the Middle East, the UK and the Philippines. This comes under Article 32 of the UAE labour law.

“Maternity leave is granted in addition to annual leave. However, we know of incidents where maternity leave was counted as part of an employee’s paid annual leave.”

Delmer Cruz, a labour attache in Dubai, said there should be more awareness among workers when it came to their rights.

“When you know your rights are being violated, then you will assert your rights,” he said. “It becomes a source of empowerment. If the other party knows that you are aware of your labour rights, it will make them think twice before violating your rights.”

End-of-service gratuities are calculated on base salary, but some companies tend to capitalise on their employees’ ignorance of the law by offering a small basic salary plus housing and transportation allowances, Mr Almazar said.

“The company will advise an employee that he or she will get a basic salary and allowances every month,” he said. “What the employee does not realise is the fact that allowances are excluded when computing one’s gratuity.”

A seminar last month on UAE labour laws was attended by about 400 Filipinos. Among them were housemaids unaware that they were not covered by the same legislation.

“Their employment is governed by immigration rules because they are under the personal sponsorship of the head of the family who they work for,” Mr Almazar said.

“These women are vulnerable to abuse but many choose to remain quiet for fear of losing their jobs or risk deportation after a jail term for consensual sex outside marriage.”

Mr Almazar and his group of lawyers and paralegals assisted those with issues such as absconding and non-payment of wages and gratuities, and outlined the procedures to resolve labour disputes.

Since launching free legal aid and seminars in January, the group has seen a growing interest in UAE law.

“Experience has taught them that being aware of the dos and don’ts in a foreign country can help you avoid getting into trouble,” Mr Almazar said.

But this has not helped some unsuspecting women who were promised marriage and became business partners with their spouse. They eventually ended up in jail for issuing cheques that had bounced, he said.

Gulf Law is holding a series of seminars covering personal finance, entrepreneurship, employment, immigration and family law in the UAE this year. The aim is to provide legal aid, empower Filipinos and keep them from falling foul of the law.

At the weekend, the group tackled personal finance and laws that protect women from domestic violence, abuse and unfair labour practices in a gathering at the Philippine embassy in Al Bateen.

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