The Philippines imposed the ban on January 2, 2020, following the murder of 26-year-old Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende by her Kuwaiti employer.
It is unclear how the ‘harmonised’ Standard Work Contract differs from the MOU signed on May 11, 2018, after the murder of another Filipino domestic worker, Joanna Demafelis. The previous agreement called for preventing abusive employers from recruiting Filipino workers and pursuing appropriate legal action against them. The agreement also prohibited employers from confiscating workers’ personal identity documents or mobile phone and stipulated the legal mechanisms in case of disputes.
The MOU signed in 2018 was to enter into force “from the date of final notification on which one party shall notify the other party of the completion of necessary national legal requirements for its implementation.” The agreement also called for a Joint Committee to review, conduct annual meetings and assess the implementation of the agreement and the standard contract.
The Philippine’s Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo recently said that the Philippines did not need to amend the 2018 agreement with Kuwait, adding that “[We want it to be] strict. We’re asking them to implement it. Otherwise, the ban remains.”
Though the full text of the Standard Work Contract is not yet available, it appears to largely rehash existing rights in Kuwait’s Domestic Worker’s Law similar to the MOU.
The lifting of the ban comes as a relief for recruitment agencies in Kuwait facing labour shortages as Ramadan nears. Khaled Al-Dakhnan, the Chairman of Kuwait Union for Domestic Labor Recruitment Offices, reported that “the majority of domestic labour offices are currently empty, except for some applications of Sri Lankan citizens, but they are in small numbers, and advance in age … which may not satisfy the Kuwaiti employers.”
The demand for Filipino workers gives the Philippines more leverage to assert protections for their workers when compared to other origin countries.
But not all stakeholders welcomed the decision to lift the ban. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines’ president Raymond Mendoza called for the immediate restoration of the ban underlining that the ban should only be lifted when justice has been secured for Jeanelyn Villavende. The Kuwaiti government has charged both Villavendes’ sponsor and his wife with murder, but the case is ongoing.