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.