MANILA, Philippines - An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was allegedly harassed and unjustly terminated by his employer in Kuwait for being a migrant rights advocate.
Gil Lebria, a warehouse keeper in Kuwait, and a coordinator of activist migrant group Migrante for the Middle East, believes that embassy officials who want to cover up their ineffeciencies want him kicked out of the said country because he is advocating workers' rights.
The OFW leader said he received a phone call on September 3 from the project secretary of his company, Al Kharafi National, saying that he was terminated without any reason at all. The management also reportedly told Lebria that it was reducing its workforce.
Under Kuwait’s labor laws, a termination is illegal without a prior one-month notice.
“Lebria was unjustly and unceremoniously terminated. This is plain and simple harassment. Migrante International condemns Philippine Embassy officials in Kuwait for having a hand on the illegal termination and forced repatriation of a Migrante coordinator in the said country," said Migrante Chairperson Concepcion Bragas-Regalado in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Lebria said he was supposed to be repatriated on the same day of his termination after he was forced to sign a blank document that was allegedly came from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
However, the POEA said that the only paper it gives to OFWs or their families are the information sheets from their records division. Moreover, the POEA said that the agency does not handle the repatriation of migrant workers, because the task lies with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Mario Antonio, head of the OWWA Repatriation and Assistance Division, told GMANews.TV on Wednesday that the agency had not heard of Lebria’s alleged repatriation.
“Kapag may pinapauwing OFW, talagang ina-alert kami pero we do not know of any Gil Lebria who is set to come back to the Philippines (We are being alerted if there is an OFW who will be repatriated, but we do not know of any Gil Lebria who is set to come back to the Philippines)," said Antonio.
Antonio also said the OWWA does not send documents to be signed by OFWs before they are sent home.
Lebria said this was not the first time that he experienced such an ordeal.
He said that it was also in September last year that he was told by his agency, Globus Manpower, that he would be repatriated to the Philippines upon orders from the Philippine embassy and the POEA.
He then led 32 fellow workers to file complaints against Kharafi for violation of labor rights, a case which they won. The company retained Lebria and was also given a wage hike because of his good record.
Regalado said Lebria would file a complaint against his former employer for the second time. Lebria is currently staying in an OFW refuge in Kuwait.
GMANews.TV tried but failed to get the side of Philippine embassy officials in Kuwait on the issue as of posting time. - KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV