Press Release: Recruiting Filipino Workers in the Cook Islands

Many employers in the Cook Islands seek to employ Filipino workers in their businesses or private homes as they offer skills in a variety of areas such as care and nursing, housekeeping, accountancy, mechanics, retail, hospitality, food and beverages or even agriculture. Immigration has approved 101 new applications for work permits for Filipino workers since the beginning of year 2017. However the recruiting process for Filipino workers is quite different from that of other nationalities of migrant workers since the Government of the Philippines established and enforced the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to facilitate the generation and preservation of decent jobs for Filipino migrant workers, promoting their protection and advocating their smooth reintegration into Philippine society after their period of employment overseas.

Any employer in the Cook Islands interested in recruiting a Filipino worker would have to go through a formal procedure with a POEA approved and licensed Philippine recruitment agency. This is mandatory and a list of the approved licensed recruitment is available online. In addition, a number of local recruiting agents can assist employers to go through this process against a service fee. Most importantly, the POEA has a standard contract for all Filipino workers going overseas and while it is possible for employers to add on or renegotiate the terms of the contract, it is the POEA who gives the final approval on the contract before releasing the worker to go overseas. This POEA approved contract is the one that legally binds the worker and the employer here in the Cook Islands. It is therefore illegal to offer Filipino workers substitute contracts once they arrive in country and both the employer and the recruiting agency can be liable under Philippines legislation to a penalty of imprisonment and a fine of approx. 50’000 NZD. Furthermore, even without any formal filing of charges, there are administrative mechanisms that can suspend, revoke or ban the recruiting agency and employers can be put on a watch list that will then prevent them from hiring any other Filipino workers and be prevented from entering the Philippines.

The Government of the Cook Islands sought clarification directly with the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines on the above matters following queries from both employers and Filipino workers in country. The President of the Filipino Community (FilCom), Vicente Aydalla, expressed the community’s appreciation in getting the much needed clarification to ensure that Filipino workers are being treated fairly in our little paradise.

If any employers or future employers are interested in getting more information on the process of recruiting a Filipino worker, they are welcome to contact the Labour Division on intaff.employment@cookislands.gov.ck or phone 29370.