Pinoy undocumented workers bear brunt of France’s lockdown
Photo credit: Macel Ingles
By Macel Ingles, Norway
Oslo- Filipino undocumented workers are hardest hit by the French lockdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic. This, according to the Nagkakaisang Pillipino sa Pransya (NPSP), a Filipino migrant organisation based in Paris.
“Since the start of the lockdown last March 17, the Filipino undocumented workers found themselves in a no work, no pay situation,” NPSP wrote in an online interview on the situation of Filipinos in France.
“The struggle of being undocumented and not declared at work doubles the vulnerability and burden of our compatriots gaining no benefits and aid both from France and especially the Philippine government,” the organization added.
Undocumented workers are considered as “invisible workers” in France because they are not covered by existing labor laws. The state tends to neglect this sector of workers making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from their employers and to inhuman working conditions.
The NPSP had been monitoring the situation of Filipinos in France since the French lockdown and has started a fundraiser to help the undocumented kababayans, who because of their status, cannot access social services from the government of France. The fundraiser hopes to collect enough money to buy 20€ relief packages for those who may need assistance.
“Napakahirap po ng kalagayan sa Paris. Isa, dahil sa Covid bawal lumabas. Sa usaping sahod, ay nasa amo ho sa katulad kong illegal worker. May among magbabayad at may among namang hindi,” part-time nanny told Acee Catahan Pinoy Portal Europe on an online interview.
She also worries about her financial situation and has asked her family in the Philippines for understanding if she won’t be able to send them money in the meantime.
“Kako sa pamilya ko ay mas kailangan namin dine ang financial. Sila naman ay may halaman at kahit papaano'y may pantawid gutom doon sa Laguna,” she added.
Undocumented workers like Catahan fear police controls that ask for their identification cards and work permits when they venture outside their homes during the lockdown. Fear of being caught stops them from going out to work.
Some of the concerns of Pinoy during the lockdown in Paris include worries about employment for those who still work, and issues on payment of salaries despite the lockdown.
Some Filipino workers were also elated by news that the French government has assured workers that they will be paid but this policy only applies to “declared” workers. A worker is considered “declared” if the employer registers their employment to the government. Some declared workers do not have work permits.
“Sa aming mga nanny na declared ang work, 80% ang sahod ang ibibigay ng amo. Sa ibang part- timer wala siguro silang sahod/pero yung iba pasasahurin sila,” Irene Carlos revealed. She is lucky to have an employer who is complying with the government policy despite the fact that she has no work permit.
Some of the workers have no choice but to work despite fears for their safety.
“Ako naman live-in sa amo, tuloy ang trabaho mahirap din pagod sa pag-asikaso sa kanila araw araw, nalabas ako na bumili ng food. Ingat na lang wala akong magagawa kahit bawal lumabas," live-in domestic worker Marsha Bascar said.
She also said that she is unable to send money at this time as most of the establishments are closed.
Senior Chef Fourmi Fumante shared the uncertainties and difficulties of some Pinoys in being able to send some money to their families in the Philippines due to the restrictions.
“Dahil sa lockdown medyo pahirapan lumabas kasi pahigpit ng pahigpit ang rules, hindi natin alam kung madelay ang sahod or ano,” Fumante noted.
He also said that , “ang mga undeclared dito natatakot din lumabas di lang sa virus kundi pag nasita need nila pakita ng ID.”
“Bukas naman ang mga Pinoy at Arab stores kung saan ka puwedeng magpadala ng pero ang tanong ay kung may ipapadala pa,” he added.
Au pair Mau de Guzman was lucky enough to have been able to send money to her family in the Philippines before the lockdown and she said that her employer has assured her that she will continue to receive her allowance.
Aside from the fundraiser, the NPSP has also urged the Philippine embassy in France to help Filipinos who have lost jobs but are not qualified to claim unemployment benefits. It also appealed to the embassy to include France in the priority countries in the Department of Labor and Employment’s USD200 AKAP Financial Assistance Program for OFWs who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 crisis.
The group estimates that there are now around 65,000 Filipinos in Frances and are mostly living in the cities of Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
It also said that most Filipinos in France work as domestic workers, childcare workers, maintenance workers, hotel and restaurant employees and embassy staff. Majority of these workers are undocumented and female.
Since the lockdown, the labor department had confirmed that a total of 400,000 businesses had been affected by the coronavirus crisis and that 1 out of 4 workers in France has lost their jobs.
If you want to help kababayans in France, this is the link to the fundraiser: