In Romania, it's bloody hard work for a group of Pinoy seamstresses

by MARIA ALETA O. NIEVA, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 07 2008 11:36 PM | Updated as of Oct 08 2008 08:19 AM

Concerned organizations and a lawmaker expressed alarm over the plight of a group of overseas Filipino women employed as textile workers in Romania.

Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) Philippines told abs-cbnNEWS.com that the government will be sending a representative to personally look into the situation of Filipino women textile workers employed as seamstresses at the Mondostar in Sibiu, Romania.

“Ang latest [update], si OWWA [Overseas Workers Welfare Administration] Director [Albert] Valenciano with another colleague, papuntang Romania to see to the situation of the migrants and negotiate with the employer on their behalf,” Sana said.

In a report by Ana Cosel which appeared on the website of the LabourNet.de Germany last August 27, 2008, she stated that 95 Filipino women were hired by Mondostar to work as seamstresses to fill in the labor shortage after the company failed to get local workers from the countryside.

The Filipino women were recruited by the Eastwind International Agency in Manila and arrived in Sibiu at the end of May 2008.

Cosel made the report based on the conversations she had with the Filipino workers. She was told that the women had to get bank loans or mortgage a property of a relative in order to pay their recruiter P120,000 and for their flight to the eastern European nation.

Low pay, poor work conditions

The contract stipulated that they will receive US$400 as basic wage and 100 percent extra for overtime work. However, the Filipino women had to sign a second contract written in Romanian, which “apparently codified wage deductions and other details.”

The report said the women have to work daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. including Saturday and are paid only 570 lei (about US$235). Worse, US$165 is deducted from their salary for food and accommodation while their overtime pay, which they calculate would amount to US$600-US$700, has not been paid by the management.

The women were disappointed at earning so little that they could not afford to pay their debts, much less send money home to their families.

It was during their third month when they decided to do something to improve their situation. Cosel said the women refused to work overtime and had demanded the company pay their full wages and the 100 percent overtime by mid-August.

A complaint was also filed before the Philippine embassy in Bucharest, which resulted to a halt in further recruitment of seamstresses for Mondostar. The company planned to recruit 180 more workers, she said.

For its part, the management addressed the women’s protest by sacking four of their spokespersons along with two others.

Cosel said the dismissal meant losing their legal status to stay in Romania, and their deportation was organized by the Philippine embassy.

Management also agreed to pay its workers but based on productivity.

“Fifty workers are supposed to tailor 500 pairs of trousers in an eight-hour shift. They just about manage to tailor 280 to 300 even after seven Romanian workers have been allocated to work for them,” Cosel’s report stated.

Senate response

Meanwhile, Sana said the Philippine Senate, through Senate President Manuel Villar filed a Senate Resolution to look into the matter “in aid of legislation.”

Villar’s resolution urges the Senate committees on labor, employment and human resources development, and social justice, welfare and rural development to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the status of OFWs in Romania “for the protection of the said workers and the improvement of their work conditions therein.”

“Hopefully, kapag nagkaroon ng hearing on that, the Senate will summon, or the committee will call for a public hearing and summon the recruiter, POEA [Philippine Overseas Employment Administration] in particular kasi pagpunta nila doon making sure na may trabaho doon at nasusunod ang kontrata,” said Sana.

She added that the CMA is also trying to mobilize international and local trade unions to assist the Filipino women in Romania.

“Supposedly, may naka-schedule na paguusap yung samahan nating based in Geneva na unyon sa kanilang counterpart sa Romania para i-prompt din sila to look into the matter,” she said.