Victims of occupational accidents and work-related injuries who want to safeguard their rights should actively seek the assistance of labor organizations and support networks, an official with the Taiwan Association of Victims of Occupational Injuries told a migrants' forum last Sunday.
The half-day event, organized by the Migrants' Standing Committee of St. Christopher's Church, also featured the Reverend Bruno Ciceri, director of the Stella Maris International Center in Kaohsiung; and Welfare Officer Lydia Espinosa of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei.
"Each case is unique," said Lin Hsien-yi, an official with the Taiwan Association of Victims of Occupational Injuries.
"It is important that you consult resource people, church-backed organizations, and other agencies (concerning your rights and benefits). They can help you."
Lin also gave some valuable pointers to victims of occupational accidents.
"If you were injured at work, don't simply tell your attending physician that you sustained work-related injuries. Tell the doctor why and how the accident took place," she said.
"Collect evidence. You can do that by taking snapshots of the machine that you were using or working on when the accident happened."
Negotiating with an employer concerning an injured worker's benefits could be tough, she admitted.
"(The negotiation process can be tough) even for Taiwanese workers," Lin said, "but it is more difficult for (migrants)."
Occupational accident victims also get to negotiate for a better compensation package if they choose to stay in Taiwan during the negotiation process, said the labor advocate.
"It will be difficult to negotiate on your behalf if you are no longer in Taiwan," Lin said.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Bruno Ciceri, director of the Stella Maris International Center in Kaohsiung, assailed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for collecting US$25 in membership fees from migrant Filipinos.
"You, as overseas Filipino workers, have already been exploited by recruiters and employers," Ciceri said, "and now, your government is taking money away from you. That (membership fee) should be shouldered by your employer."
In May, the Philippine Migrants' Rights Watch formally launched "Bayad Ko "To" (I Paid For This) signature campaign against OWWA's Omnibus Policies.
According to PMRW, the campaign aims to gather 100,000 signatures as evidence that overseas Filipinos are the ones shouldering their OWWA membership fees.
"Section 5b of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Letter of Instruction 537 states that the fee must in no way be charged to the worker," the group said.
Last year, PMRW asked a Philippine court to stop OWWA from forcibly collecting US$25 as membership fee from migrant Filipinos. In the group's complaint, PMRW also asked that OWWA be directed to order employers to pay the workers' US$25 fee as mandated by law.
The group also accused OWWA and its Board of Trustees of grave abuse of discretion and in excess of its jurisdiction when it promulgated the Omnibus Policies. The said policies limit membership in OWWA only to OFWs who are currently employed.
Previously, direct families of overseas Filipinos and returnees could avail themselves of OWWA benefits.
Catholic Bishop Ramon Arguelles also said the OWWA Omnibus Policies "were deliberately crafted to increase the OWWA fund by engaging more in investments while restricting expenses on beneficiaries and services."
At the St. Christopher's Church forum, Ciceri said OWWA was generating profits from those overseas Filipinos' membership fees.
"But that profit won't (benefit) overseas Filipino workers," said the priest.
If a migrant is sent home or repatriated before completing his or her contract, that individual automatically loses whatever benefits he or she is entitled to from OWWA, Ciceri added.
"The US$25 that you paid is gone," he said. "Since OWWA membership is valid only for three years, and you are allowed to stay in Taiwan for six years, you have to pay another US$25 to OWWA."