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Philippines, Saudi Arabia sign pact giving Filipino household workers higher pay

By , Fat Reyes

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and Saudi Arabia have agreed to implement a “pioneering” standard employment contract for newly hired Filipino domestic workers in the Middle Eastern country, a document that would provide for higher compensation, better working conditions and benefits for household workers, officials said on Thursday.

This as Saudi Arabia, one of the largest receiving countries for Filipino domestics, resumed the employment of household service workers (HSWs) after a more than yearlong ban.

Early last year, the Saudi Arabian government stopped processing, verifying, and authenticating applications from the country’s domestic workers following disagreements in wages. The Philippines wanted the domestic workers to get a minimum monthly salary of $400 but Saudi Arabia found it too high, saying the average was only $200.

In a press conference on Thursday, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the new contract, which he helped negotiate for roughly a year, could serve as a model that Philippine labor authorities might pursue with other countries that have been receiving overseas Filipino workers.

“Hopefully, this will be a model for other countries to adopt. Through this contract, we hope our workers will be treated with respect and dignity,” said Binay.

“I sincerely believe that this will provide HSWs the protection they need and deserve,” he added.

The official, also Presidential Adviser on OFW concerns, said among the key provisions of the contract was the guaranteed $400 monthly compensation for domestic workers, delivered through banks to ensure monthly receipt.

The average pay for domestics in Saudi Arabia was $200 per month, Binay said.

“This (compensation) has always been the cause of friction in the past because some only had oral agreements [on the amount of pay]. This time, it’s already fixed,” said Binay in the presser at the Buddha Bar in Makati City, Thursday, morning.

The contract also prevents employers from seizing passports and other travel documents of OFWs, a practice reported in the past in cases of abuse.

The document also requires employers to give Filipino HSWs at least eight hours of rest per day and at least one day off per week. Filipino domestics are also entitled to suitable living quarters and paid medical leaves. Employers must also shoulder the repatriation of their employees in cases of war and other emergencies.

The new contract applies to incoming household workers in Saudi Arabia, where the demand for Filipino workers continue. An estimated two million Filipinos work in the kingdom, and up to 20 percent of them are employed in households.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Deputy Administrator Liberty Castro said the Philippine government has been negotiating a similar contract with Jordan, also a major OFW receiving country.

Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the Philippines Abdullah Al Hassan, meanwhile, appealed to media “not to exaggerate isolated cases” of employer abuse.

“I would like to say that not all employers are angels, and also, your workers are not all angels. What we ask from media is not to exaggerate isolated cases…. We are all human beings who commit mistakes,” Hassan said.

Representatives from Kuwai, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were also present during Thursday’s press conference.

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Tags: Foreign affairs , Global Nation , Labor , Middle East & Africa , Overseas employment , Philippines , Saudi Arabia , wages

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