The employment contract is an important document for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as it specifies their rights and privileges while working in a foreign country.  But what if the work contract one signed while still here in the Philippines is replaced or altered with another work contract that puts a worker to a disadvantage?

Contract substitution is one of the most common problems of OFWs and it usually leaves them underpaid and extended contract duration. Usually the altered contract indicates a much lower salary compared to what is indicated in the original contract. It also lengthens the duration of the stay of the OFW in the country. 

Rolando Coquia, Welfare Officer of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, advised OFWs to avoid signing new employment contract if it is still not verified by the Philippine Embassy.

“Contract substitution is widely imposed by employers and is always to the disadvantage of expatriate workers,” said Coquia during the forum organized by the Filipino Overseas Workers Association (FOWA).

He also said that upon signing the altered employment contract, the original work contract which they signed prior to their arrival in their host country is considered null and void.

“Saudi labor laws recognize the new substituted contract. So if you file a labor case against your employer citing a claim that your salary was reduced and the duration of your contract extended, the labor court will pass its ruling based on the substituted contract,” he said.

To prevent alteration of the employment contract, foreign embassies, including the Philippines, are trying to find ways to fight this kind of violation and protect the welfare of the workers. Workers from Asian countries are the ones that are most often victimized by contract substitution.

Even if OFWs have placement agencies who set requirements and terms of recruitment prior to their deployment, once the employee signed the substituted contract, the agency will not be able to protect the worker.

The Philippines aims to create a bilateral labor agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where most cases of contract substitution happen. The agreement includes banning and non-recognition of substituted contract and that the original work contract must prevail in case of employee-employer dispute.

Newly arrived workers are usually forced to sign the new contract as their employer threatens to have them deported.  They don’t have a choice but to sign it since they need the job and needs to earn money.

“In any such case, foreign workers must first seek the assistance of their respective embassies. This is the first line of protection against the rampant tactic of contract substitution,” Coquia added.

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