Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 – 09:00
Overseas Filipino Workers from Kuwait gather upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines in February. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Kuwait announced on Monday that it will set up a special commission to address the employment of housemaids in the Gulf state, in what was interpreted as an olive branch extended to the Philippines over the migrant labor row.

Manila announced on Monday that it was prepared to dispatch a delegation to Kuwait to contain the escalating dispute over domestic foreign workers in Kuwait.

The development stood in stark contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement over the weekend that Manila’s ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait was permanent.

Duterte in February prohibited workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in her employer’s freezer.

The resulting row deepened last week after Kuwaiti authorities ordered Manila’s envoy to leave the country over videos of Philippine embassy staff helping workers in Kuwait flee their employers.

During its weekly meeting, the Kuwaiti government on Monday said it was opposed to any move “aimed at undermining its sovereignty and its laws”, the official KUNA news agency reported.

The government added however that it will set up a special commission chaired by the minister of social affairs and labor to follow up “on cooperation with friendly states” on the employment of housemaids in Kuwait.

“This is largely a misunderstanding and exaggeration of some minor or one-off cases,” Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser al-Subaih told reporters in Kuwait City.

“We have taken a serious stance … but we do not believe in escalation and want to remain in direct communication to resolve the problem,” Subaih added.

Kuwait and the Philippines had been negotiating a labor deal that could have resulted in the lifting of the ban on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

The Philippines on Tuesday welcomed Kuwait’s olive branch in the migrant labor row.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: “This gesture on the part of Kuwait, a country with which we have a shared history and strong people-to-people ties, will allow us to move forward.”

“We affirm our friendship with the government of Kuwait and its people. The strength of that friendship will withstand this misunderstanding,” he added.

Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippines’ foreign ministry.

Duterte said workers returning from Kuwait could find employment as English teachers in China, citing improved ties with Beijing.

The Philippines has sent millions of its people to work abroad, seeking salaries they cannot get in their relatively impoverished nation.

The money they send back home accounts for about 10 percent of the Philippine economy.

Apple investigates new claims of China factory staff mistreatment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’)

 

Apple investigates new claims of China factory staff mistreatment

Conditions for 70,000 workers at Pegatron plants allegedly worse than those reported in the Foxconn scandal
Apple
 Apple is investigating new claims of worker mistreatment in China. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Apple has been accused of benefiting from the exploitation of more than 70,000 Chinese factory workers in conditions described as even worse than those at Foxconn, the supplier hit by employee suicides and accusations of excessive working hours.

The iPhone and iPad maker is accused of breaching its promise to improve working conditions after the Foxconn revelations by using another supplier alleged to have broken 86 labour laws, including forcing pregnant women to work 11 hours a day, six days a week, standing up.

The US-based human rights watchdog China Labour Watch (CLW) also accused the company in question, Pegatron, of employing underage staff and discriminating against applicants shorter than 4ft 11in, older than 35 or from certain ethic minorities. The fresh claims of worker mistreatment are particularly embarrassing for Apple after it switched some iPhone and iPad manufacturing from Foxconn to Pegatron after intense negative publicity surrounding Foxconn.

Li Qiang, executive director of CLW, said: “Our investigations have shown labour conditions at Pegatron factories are even worse than at Foxconn factories. Apple has not lived up to its own standards. Apple is worsening conditions for workers, not improving them.”

Apple on Monday promised to investigate the claims and ensure “corrective actions” are taken. The company said it would force Pegatron to compensate for lost wages. “We are dedicated to protecting every worker in our supply chain,” a spokesman said. The Californian company said it had carried out 15 comprehensive audits at Pegatron factories since 2007, but admitted that many of the CLW claims were “new to us”. Apple confirmed CLW’s claim that some employment agencies were withholding worker ID cards and demanded Pegatron “put a stop” to it.

Jason Cheng, chief executive of Pegatron, said he would immediately investigate the allegations, many of which the company denied. “We strive to make each day at Pegatron better than the last for our employees. They are the heart of our business,” he said. “That’s why we take these allegations very seriously.”

CLW sent undercover investigators posing as employees into three Pegatron factories and conducted more than 200 interviews with staff. Its 60-page reportclaimed the majority of Pegatron’s factory staff worked 66- to 69-hour weeks, above the Chinese legal limit of 49 hours and Apple’s limit of 60 hours a week. Apple said its latest Pegatron survey found employees making its products worked 46-hours a week on average.

“In these factories, pregnant women were made to work the same long hours as other workers, putting in 11-hour days for six days per week,” the CLW report said. Chinese law restricts employers from asking pregnant women to work more than eight hours a day.

CLW also claimed Pegatron employs workers under 18 – breaching both Chinese law and Apple’s strict employment code. “Underage workers often enter the factories as student ‘interns’ required to work at factories by vocational schools,” the report said. Pegatron denied that it employed underage staff.

Pegatron, which recently won the contract to make Apple’s forthcoming cheaper iPhone, allegedly displays posters listing “hiring standards” that discriminates against minority groups. The list bans applicants who are less than 4ft 11in, over 35, pregnant, or from the Hui, Tibetan or Uighur ethnic groups. CLW also claimed that male applicants were forced to take off their shirts to prove they did not have tattoos.

It said the average hourly wage of Pegatron workers making Apple products is no more than $1.50 (£0.98) an hour, which it claims is not enough to live on and effectively forces staff to work overtime to earn a living wage.

The undercover investigators also claim Pegatron managers threaten and abuse staff. Managers are alleged to have said: “If you don’t obey, I will expose you to the blazing sun until 12 o’clock.”

The allegations come a year after Apple chief executive Tim Cook visited Foxconn’s Chinese factories and promised regular inspections of working conditions at its biggest suppliers.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the Fair Labor Association [FLA] to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” he said. “The inspections now under way are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”