CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Consulate fluffs but workers pay

HONG KONG (SE): It is a double whammy for overseas foreign workers,” Dolores Balladares, from United Filipinos Hong Kong, said of the failure of the Philippine Consulate General to ensure migrant workers filled out the correct forms for the Hong Kong Immigration Department when renewing their job contracts.

The contracts need to be processed by the Philippine authorities before they can be sent to the Hong Kong government office for approval.

However, the failure of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office to notify workers that they were submitting the wrong form, Balladares is calling a gross failure of  responsibility.

Not giving out the correct information shows a disastrous lack of foresight, as authorities happily processed contracts filled out on outdated forms and forwarded them to the Immigration Office.

The Immigration Department had issued new contract forms to be used from the beginning of February to accommodate changes that have been made in contract conditions regarding a readjustment to some regulations on conditions of work.

They are even colour-coded in order to make it easier for both officials and workers to distinguish between them. The new ones are blue and the old ones are green.

However, many workers, who do not live in the heady world of bureaucracy were unaware of the change and used the old green form when making their applications.

Instead of informing them of the mistake, the Philippine authorities simply collected the fee and processed the incorrect ones, then forwarded them to Immigration, even though they, at least, should have known they would be returned.

Balladares pointed out that to add insult to injury, the consulate officials showed no remorse for their poor performance and proceeded to charge rejected applicants a second time when they lodged the correct form.

“Should overseas workers be punished and penalised for the incompetence of government officials?” Balladares is asking.

United Filipinos is requesting the consulate to process the second form free of charge and to return the fees to those who have already coughed up twice to compensate for what can only be described as an appalling incidence of ignorance combined incompetence.

“We urge you to provide genuine service to our sector and to stop taking advantage of the Immigration Department’s new policy to make money from the concerned foreign workers,” Balladares commented.

The fiasco was uncovered within days of the consulate getting a fair dose of criticism at the Hong Kong premiere of Sunday Beauty Queen, an exposé of many aspects of the difficulties that migrants face in their work.

Complaints about the lack of support for migrants in need came out as a significant topic in the doco-drama and the inability of a government department to distinguish blue from green is another case of the consulate fluffs but the worker pays.

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