If they’re caught doing that, both the employer and the recruiting agency can be penalised under Philippines law with a fine of around $50,000, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.
Labour and Consumer Division director, Sandrina Thondoo, says the recruiting process for Filipino workers has been different to migrant worker applications from other countries, ever since the government of the Philippines established and enforced the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).
She says employers need to understand the POEA-approved contract is legally binding for both the worker and the employer in the Cook Islands.
Aside from the formal filing of charges, there are other measures the government can take to suspend, revoke or ban an employer or recruiting agency that breaches or substitutes an employee’s POEA contract. Employers can also be put on a watchlist that will then prevent them from hiring any other Filipino workers and be prevented from entering the Philippines.
Thondoo says the legislation was bought into force to help the generation and preservation of “decent” jobs for Filipino migrant workers, promoting their protection and advocating their smooth repatriation into Philippine society following their period of employment overseas.
“Any employer in the Cook Islands interested in recruiting a Filipino worker must go through a formal procedure with a POEA-approved and licensed Philippine recruitment agency. This is mandatory and a list of the approved licensed recruitment is available online.
“Most importantly, the POEA has a standard contract for all Filipino workers going overseas and while it is possible for employers to add on or renegotiate the terms of the contract, it is the POEA who gives the final approval on the contract before releasing the worker to go overseas.”
To fill the shortfall of workers now required in Rarotonga, Immigration has approved 101 new applications for Filipino workers since the beginning of the year.
According to Ministry of Internal affairs statistics many employers look to employ Filipino workers in fields including care and nursing, housekeeping, hospitality, retailing, accountancy, mechanical and agriculture.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs recently sought clarification directly with the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines on employment issues from both employers and Filipino workers in the Cook Islands.
Thondoo says, a number of local recruiting agents can assist employers to go through the correct process for a service fee.
Any employers wanting more information on the process of recruiting Filipino workers can contact the Labour Division on:
- Chris Taylor/Release