Philippines Taiwan

Philippines - Taiwan: Grievance and remedy

Filipino migrant workers abroad and returnee migrant workers have access to support and grievance mechanisms. In all but the most serious cases, the Philippines places a strong emphasis on the primacy of mediation to resolve disputes and provide remedy. The Philippines authorities abroad, notably POLO and OWWA, assist migrant workers in dispute resolution and conciliation, and the POEA can exert leverage by threatening to remove the accreditation of foreign employers or recruitment agents who do not engage in mediation in good faith. In 2020, the Philippines senate expanded the use of a Legal Assistance Fund that overseas workers can avail of in cases that are heard in foreign courts. In the Philippines, workers can take cases against Philippines recruitment agents to the National Labor Relations Commission, and the POEA can provide advice and support on how to do this. Legal aid is available to migrant workers from the Public Attorney’s Office, but in practice is limited to the most serious cases. In practice, a very small proportion of aggrieved Filipino migrant workers use the judicial grievance mechanisms available to them. The Philippines’ preference for mediation, ingrained in policy and its Single Entry Approach (SenA) partly explains this, but many workers lose their appetite to pursue cases as the length and complexity of the process becomes apparent, and opt for quick financial settlements.

Taiwan’s primary grievance mechanism for its foreign workforce is a multi-lingual hotline that allows workers to access support and advice and to formally file complaints against their employers or their recruitment agents. Data provided to us by the Ministry of Labour indicates that the hotline is well utilised. NGOs had some reservations about the workings of the systeme but were generally supportive of the system, which they said had improved workers’ access to remedy. Numerous migrant workers we spoke to described how they used the hotline to report complaints relating to pay and conditions to the authorities, who responded effectively and facilitated their job transfer. However, it is notable that migrant workers often seek the support of NGOs when filing complaints, and recruitment agents, who are mandated to act in an intermediary role between employers and foreign workers, often attempt to dissuade workers from accessing the hotline. There is also evidence that a significant proportion of migrant domestic workers do not access grievance mechanisms due to fears that they will lose their jobs. In cases before the courts, migrant workers, including some categories of undocumented workers, are eligible for legal aid. The Taiwanese Legal Aid Foundation provides legal services to thousands of foreign workers every year and has successfully taken cases that resulted in large groups of workers receiving financial compensation for contractual violations such as wage theft. One factor that can hinder workers’ ability to access judicial remedies is a failure to provide foreign workers with translators in order that they can articulate their arguments in the requisite detail and follow the proceedings.

Recommendations to the Philippine government:

  • Explore with groups such as the ILO the feasibility of video-technology in allowing returnee workers to access judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms in destination states.
  • Conduct an independent policy review of the Single Entry Approach to assess the effectiveness of mediation and conciliation in providing overseas foreign workers with their right to effective remedy. This review should specifically address the question of whether mediation is, in practice, an obstacle to effective remedy.

Recommendations to the Government of Taiwan:

  • Ensure that all foreign workers who avail of legal aid have access to qualified translators in all interactions with their legal representatives and during court proceedings.
  • Extend government funding of shelters and legal aid services to foreign workers.
  • Ensure that all callers to the 1955 Hotline are clearly informed of their right to submit formal complaints, and conduct a complementary information campaign to inform workers of the circumstances in which they have the right to change employers and the process for doing so.