A bill filed by Rizal 2nd District Rep. Fidel Nograles pushing for the creation of a separate agency to handle overseas labor cases was welcomed by a coalition of recruitment agencies.
“It’s about time” said Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFW’s Advancement and Development (ABROAD) Convenor Russel Garcia.
“OFW cases involve foreign labor and immigration laws and rules of procedures.”
Garcia noted that the law creating the National Relations Commission (NLRC), although last amended in 2015, has origins dating back as an act of the U.S. Congress during the Commonwealth period and was implemented in the Philippines in 1899.
“The NLRC is an agency established to primarily handle domestic labor cases and although it currently covers money claims filed by OFWs, it is not specifically and purposely designed to handle today’s increasingly complex and frequent cases arising from overseas labor,” Garcia said.
“OFW cases involve foreign labor and immigration laws and rules of procedures and they are all different on a per country basis,” he also said.
A further complication is the fact that these also involve foreign and absentee respondents and therefore, poses difficult challenges for all parties, particularly the OFWs, in terms of delivering timely, affordable, and full satisfaction of their claims against those actually responsible for them, added Garcia.
In his speech during the Multi-Stakeholders on Department of OFW Creation organized by ABROAD on 14 November, Nograles said he filed House Bill No. 5171 to call for the establishment of an Overseas Labor Relations Commission that shall have “exclusive and original jurisdiction over all cases involving employer-employee relations, documented or undocumented workers, arising out of or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas employment.”
“It will not do to try to mandate a “one size fits all” approach to handling OFW complaints because other countries are rightfully as sensitive about their sovereignty as we are,” Nograles said.
Nograles also earlier said that any measure promoting the welfare of OFWs, who remain a key sector of the country’s economy, should be passed with no questions asked.
“Any measure promoting the welfare of OFWs, should be passed with no questions asked.”
A separate labor relations commission for OFWs would also ensure that migrant workers with labor disputes are given enough attention and resources that the NLRC in its current form could not provide, Nograles added.
Under the House Bill, the OLRC shall have three divisions, each headed by a Presiding Commissioner from the public sector and a member each from among the nominees of the migrant workers and the “self-regulating organizations” of private recruitment and manning agencies.
It also provides for 10 Overseas Labor Arbiters for an Arbitration Branch in the National Capital Region and another three for every Regional Arbitration Branches which has a recorded number of at least 50 cases involving OFWs in a year.
The OLRC shall have the same power and authority as the National Labor Relations Commission in determining its own rules of procedures.
Aside from the creation of the OLRC, House Bill No. 5171 also calls for a “Foreign Employment Practice Liability Insurance fund, enhanced training for overseas labor officers and attachés and the establishment of protocols for hiring attorneys in host countries to assist OFWs.”