POLO-OWWA, Consulate assist displaced OFWs in Hong Kong due to COVID-19

PASAY CITY -- The Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Hong Kong SAR (POLO-OWWA) have provided legal advice and other assistance related to salary claims and benefits to the OFWs whose contracts were terminated due to circumstances wrought by the spread of COVID-19 in Hong Kong.

The displaced OFWs totaled 40 as of March 2, 2020. In a detailed report furnished by POLO-OWWA, the contracts of 16 OFWs were terminated due to the decision of the employers to relocate to China, U.S., Australia and other countries. The other 12 cases of termination were due to the insistence of the OFWs to take their days off to attend church services, go to remittance centers, or attend to personal commitments, despite the prohibition of their employers for fear of contracting the virus.

The remaining 12 OFWs were sacked from their jobs when they failed to return to their employers on time due to the imposition of travel ban, health condition, being quarantined for 14 days, passport and visa issues, and purposeful refusal to return to the employer.

Describing the occurrence of termination of employment contract initiated either by the employer or the OFW as a normal, regular incident in Hong Kong, POLO-OWWA said they helped the OFWs in the computation of their salary, service and other benefit claims against the employers. The workers with complaints on the availment of days-off were advised to file cases to the Labour Relations Division or Equal Opportunities Commission.

Meanwhile, the terminated OFWs due to the employers’ relocation were assisted to the Hong Kong Immigration Department to secure ID 522. Issuance of this ID enables the terminated OFW to transfer to a new employer, process the new contract and work visa, while in Hong Kong. However, some of the terminated OFWs issued with ID 522 opted to return home while waiting for their new job visas.

“The OWWA shall provide livelihood or employment assistance to displaced OFWs deciding to permanently come home,” said OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac on March 3, 2020 through his Twitter account.

As of this writing, OWWA has already released P87.4M in cash assistance to 8,477 OFWs who were affected by the COVID 19-related temporary travel ban. Except for China, the travel ban of OFWs to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan has been lifted since February 18.