MANILA, Aug 7 (Mabuhay) — Sen. Grace Poe pressed for the immediate passage of a bill that would provide greater protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have unjustly or prematurely lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Senate Bill No. 1476 or the proposed Act to Further Assist Filipino Migrant Workers will entitle the OFWs to the full reimbursement of their placement fee with 12-percent interest per annum plus their salaries for the unexpired portion of their employment contract, amending the current law that states that they may receive only three months’ salary for every year of unexpired term, whichever is less.

“We must guarantee that our OFWs who were found eligible in keeping their jobs are shielded with social protection and fair benefits,” Poe said.

The bill, which seeks to amend Section 10 on Money Claims of Republic Act No. 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act, also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment and attached agencies to provide new skill trainings, re-training programs, livelihood and technology assistance, seminars for micro-finance assistance, and similar opportunities for the returning OFWs.

“While we acknowledge that COVID-19 has hit a number of industries worldwide, it should not be flagrantly used as an excuse to lay off our Filipino workers without just cause, sufficient notice, and fair compensation,” she added.

Poe underscored the need to institutionalize increased protection to OFWs as thousands are cut from their employment and sent home due to the slowdown in economic activities worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their vulnerability as they struggle to gain access to healthcare, testing or treatment to ensure they remain fit to do the job and continue to have income to provide for their families.

“Our OFWs have contributed to keep the economy afloat. Their sacrifices in the hope of enjoying the fruits of their labor when they come home should not be taken for granted,” Poe said.

Under the current Migrant Workers Act, the OFWs may file complaints before the National Labor Relations Commission and seek claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages. The complaints will be heard and decided within 90 calendar days after the filing. (MNS)

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