Historic labor pact sealed

The Philippines and New Zealand  have  signed a bilateral agreement that will ban the imposition of placement fee on overseas Filipino workers going to New Zealand, clamp down hard on illegal and unscrupulous recruiters and agents, and prosecute perpetrators of document fraud and other recruitment shenanigans.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and New Zealand Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michel Woodhouse signed the landmark labor cooperation agreement in New Zealand during Baldoz visit to that country.  

In a brief ceremony at New Zealand’s Parliament House, known as the “Beehive”,    Baldoz and    Woodhouse signed the “Arrangement on the Principles and Controls on the Recruitment and Protection of Filipino Workers in New Zealand”, in the presence of Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez, who was instrumental in hammering out the agreement, and top officials of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Baldoz, who was on  an official mission to New Zealand, was joined by her top officials at the DOLE, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and Labor Attaché to Australia and New Zealand  lawyer Rodolfo Sabulao.

“This is a very historic and a very significant occasion,”    Baldoz said, adding that “this landmark document will govern the smooth deployment of skilled and professional overseas Filipino workers to New Zealand and ensure their welfare and protection while working in this country.”      

There are close to 40,000 Filipinos in New Zealand, 23,682 of them were permanent migrants, 9,444 temporary workers, and 1,024 irregular workers.

The POEA has recorded an increasing deployment of OFWs to New Zealand, with 1,638 new hires deployed in 2014.

OFWs in New Zealand are mostly production workers (66 percent); agriculture and animal husbandry workers with 17 percent; professionals, 4 percent; administrative and managerial workers, 5 percent; service workers, 5 percent, and the rest are either sales or clerical workers.

Based on New Zealand Immigration data, about 50 to 55 percent of workers participating in the rebuilding of Christchurch are OFWs.

Baldoz said the agreement will strengthen the “Memorandum of Agreement on Labor Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of New Zealand” which the two countries signed on Nov. 4, 2008.

She said the new agreement will boost and enhance the economic and socio-cultural ties between the Philippines and New Zealand, explaining that the agreement eliminates high placement fees and document fraud that have been the bane for workers intending to work in New Zealand.

“Two countries working together to eliminate costly job placement and other recruitment-related fees, illegal recruitment and human trafficking, document fraud and fake training and qualifications credentials will make a strong case for a model bilateral arrangement for other sending and receiving countries to emulate,” she said.

“I am very confident this agreement will redound to the mutual benefit and development of our two countries,” she added, acknowledging that New Zealand treats migrant workers no different than it treats its own workers, affording them strong welfare and protection in accordance with international standards.  

“I have no worries about OFWs in New Zealand. With the country’s strong labor laws and welfare and protection standards, OFWs wanting to work in New Zealand are definitely well-protected,” she explained.

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