Saturday, June 16, 2012


The United States and Philippines has forged a Joint Declaration on Migrant Worker Rights which aims to avoid a repetition of violations that led to the debarment of a Maryland public school system that victimized Filipino teachers.

Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. signed the Joint Declaration with US Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis last June 11. The US signed similar accords with representatives of Honduras and Peru.

The Labor Department slapped the Prince George’s County Public School system (PGCPS) last year with a 2-year debarment and $1.7 million fine for illegally collecting placement fees from international teachers, most of them from the Philippines.

They found PGCPS “willfully violated” the conditions of H-2B visas that allowed the Filipino teachers to work and bring their families to Maryland. Over 800 of them were lured from jobs in the Philippines and now face the unwelcome prospect of a reverse migration.

“We are sad for the teachers. They abandoned everything in the Philippines for the American dream,” Philippine Labor Attache Luz Padilla told the Manila Mail.

She revealed that Cuisia has already made arrangements with Philippine Education (DECS) Secretary Armand Luistro to employ teachers displaced from Prince George’s County.

“The DECS will assist Filipino teachers who have to return to the Philippines so they can be accommodated in Philippine schools,” she explained.

“I am sure if there are opportunities in private schools, DECS can also help,” she added.

Private schools usually offer better pay and benefits than their government counterparts, a more palatable option for many of the displaced teachers who were lured to the US primarily by the promise of a higher salary.

Work permits for the last – and biggest batch – of Filipino teachers in Prince George’s County will expire in September. A separate group from the Baltimore public school system is expected to suffer a similar fate as more Americans re-discover the teaching profession because of the tight labor market.

“We continue to monitor them,” Padilla said. She said they are working with the US Labor Department to ensure Filipino teachers in Prince George’s County receive their refund of the fees illegally collected from them.

The DOL had ordered the PGCPS to return some $4.2 million it unlawfully collected from the Filipino mentors.

Padilla said the DOL accord will go a long way to preventing a repetition of the Prince George’s County experience.

“We have enough regulations (in the Philippines) in place. They should not have paid excessive placement fees because that is prohibited by law then we found out that under US laws, they’re not supposed to pay that at all,” she explained.

“Information should have been provided to our teachers,” Padilla stressed. 

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