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Cablegate: Philippine Congen Labor Attache Discusses Uae Labor Issues

VZCZCXRO8071
PP RUEHDIR
DE RUEHDE #0278/01 1980921
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160921Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6094
INFO RUEHZM/GCC C COLLECTIVE
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 3130
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI PRIORITY 9295
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA PRIORITY 0005

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBAI 000278

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PHUM AE RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE CONGEN LABOR ATTACHE DISCUSSES UAE LABOR ISSUES

REF: A. DUBAI 245; B. 07 DUBAI 570; C. 07 DUBAI 581

DUBAI 00000278 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (U) Summary: In a meeting covering a broad range of labor
topics, Dubai-based Philippine Labor Attache Virginia Calvez
discussed with Pol/Econ Officer updates to the UAE-Philippine
pilot project (ref A), including how this pilot would complement
existing labor-related regulations implemented by the Philippine
government (GOP). Calvez commended the excellent relationship
with UAE government officials and noted that the positive
atmosphere has greatly benefited the Filipino community in Dubai
and the northern emirates. She did, however, suggest that the
UAE Ministry of Labor (MOL) dedicate additional resources to
dispute resolution so that cases can be processed in a more
reasonable time frame. She also flagged ongoing concern over
employment-seekers on visit visas who bypass the GOP employment
assistance regime. End summary.

MOL Pilot Project in the Philippines

------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Philippine ConGen Labor Attache Virginia Calvez told
Pol/Econ Officer on July 8 that the recently-announced UAE pilot
program would seek to link and/or enhance existing expatriate
labor regulations in the Philippines for UAE-bound workers.
Calvez explained that the GOP already has a comprehensive system
of worker protections that apply to Filipino nationals worldwide
(ref B). In most countries, all employment requests processed
through Filipino recruitment agencies must pass through one of
the Philippine Labor Attache offices, where staff members verify
that the requested employment parameters meet the GOP's minimum
standards (i.e., minimum wage, appropriate working conditions,
suitable living accommodation, etc.). (Note: There are
exceptions to this requirement; in countries where local labor
standards meet or exceed those mandated by the GOP, labor
requests are not vetted by the Labor Attache. End note.) If
the job order does not meet these minimum requirements, the
prospective worker will not be authorized to leave the
Philippines on an employment visa.

Using Technology to Prevent Contract Switching

--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) Since the UAE does not recognize labor contracts signed
outside of UAE territory, Calvez noted that the bilateral pilot
project would likely focus, in part, on technical methods by
which the signed contract could be electronically transferred to
the satisfaction of both the UAE and GOP. (Note: The electronic
transmission of labor contracts would greatly assist in the
persistent fight against contract substitution, which often
takes place during the transition of the contract from the
recruitment agency in the sending country to the employer in the
receiving country. End note.) Calvez also speculated that the
upcoming October visit of UAE Minister of Labor Saqr Ghobash to
the Philippines would help facilitate the implementation of this
system.

Visit Visas Still Abused

------------------------

4. (SBU) Calvez remarked that despite the protections
implemented by the GOP, some Filipino nationals travel to the
UAE on visit visas (as opposed to an employment visa) for the
purposes of seeking work upon arrival (refs B & C). Using a
tourist visa in order to search for employment, she stressed,
places the individual at the mercy of unscrupulous employers or
intermediaries, who often take advantage of desperate job
seekers' lack of cultural understanding and/or knowledge of the
labor system (i.e. contract terms, sponsorship requirements,
legal protections, etc.). She underscored the importance of
Filipino nationals relying on proper employment channels, which
provide for very important pre-departure orientation training
such as basic language and cultural awareness, information on
terms/conditions of employment, and HIV/sexual education
awareness.

Excellent Bi-lateral Relations

------------------------------

5. (SBU) Calvez also highlighted the excellent bi-lateral
relations between the Labor Attache's office and the various
government entities in the UAE responsible for labor oversight.
She commended the regular cooperation and communication with
these officials and said disputes involving Filipino workers are
typically resolved very quickly, either through the MOL's
grievance system or in the labor courts. Calvez did note,
however, that increasingly large labor caseloads often result in

DUBAI 00000278 002.2 OF 002


significant delays for the affected employee. She suggested
that more MOL employees dedicated to labor adjudications,
especially those with qualified language skills, could greatly
improve the system's efficiency.

Comment

-------

6. (SBU) The GOP appears to be taking a proactive role in
seeking to ensure that its 300,000 nationals in the UAE
(approximately 218,000 in Dubai and the northern emirates and
85,000 in Abu Dhabi) benefit from the full range of protections
under Philippine and UAE law. Still, as highlighted by Calvez,
problems with contract substitution and abuse of visitor visas
persist. The technological aspects of the new pilot project, if
ultimately implemented, could help to close the loophole through
which contract substitution can thrive. Moreover, some of the
proposed visa regulations recently announced by the UAE, which
increases tourist visa fees and mandates that some nationalities
(the Philippines included) provide a security deposit meant to
guarantee departure, could reduce the number of job seekers
entering on tourist visas. If not, the UAE and GOP may be
forced to address tourist visa abuse on a bilateral basis. End
comment.
MAGLEBY

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