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Migrante Int’l asks DOLE head to visit OFWs in Middle East

/ 02:39 PM July 18, 2016

Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipino organizations, on Monday said it has high hopes of working with the Duterte administration to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the crisis in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

“Bilang organisasyong nagsusulong ng karapatan at kagalingan ng mga migranteng Pilipino, handa kami na makipagtulungan kasalukuyang administrasyon para agarang matugunan ang problema ng mga kababayan natin sa Saudi,” Migrante International Garry Martinez said in a statement.

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(As an organisation that promotes the rights and welfare of migrant Filipinos, we are ready to work with the current administration to immediately address the problems of our fellow citizens in Saudi.)

Migrante International credited the new administration for ordering Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello “to urgently address the problems of thousands of stranded OFWs in the KSA.”

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Martinez said the group hopes that Bello would visit the migrant Filipino workers to assess their situation and come up with a bilateral agreement with the Saudi government to address the unfortunate situation.

Migrante called on the Duterte administration to attend to the demands of the stranded OFWs and to negotiate with the employers to resolve problems in the payment of salaries.

It said government should also shoulder immigration penalties, provide legal assistance, and ban the deployment of workers to bankrupt and crisis-ridden companies in the Middle East.

The group also hopes that that there would be “emergency financial assistance to returned OFWs and families of distressed OFWs, comprehensive reintegration program for returning OFWs; and speedy resolution of cases of repatriated OFWs lodged at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and National Labors Relations Commission.”

According to Migrante, the decline of crude oil prices in Saudi Arabia has prompted the government to reduce spending, delay projects and sell bonds. The budget deficit currently experienced by Saudi resulted in the “financial instability” of its local contractors, which in turn affects the migrant workers, the group said.

“OFWs are drastically affected by non-payment of salaries, withholding of benefits and massive retrenchment. Primarily affected are workers of Saudi Oger Ltd. and Saudi Binladen Group, two of the biggest contractors hired by the Saudi government for construction and industrial projects,” Migrante claimed.

Migrante added that some OFWs have returned to the country without receiving their benefits because they were compulsorily classified under “voluntary resignation” instead of “termination.”

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“Saudi Aramco, the country’s national oil industry, had already warned of massive retrenchment of 25 percent of its labor force due to financial cutbacks. Some OFWs were forcibly classified under ‘voluntary resignation’ instead of ‘termination’ nor ‘end-of-contract’ for the company to not be obliged to provide the workers’ benefits,” the group said.

Migrante urged Duterte to correct the failures of the Aquino administration.

“Sa mahabang panahon, inudyok namin ang nakaraang gobyerno para agarang umaksyon sa problema ng mga kababayan natin. Wala silang sinagot sa ating mga OFW kundi kibit-balikat, habang itinatanggi ang hagupit ng krisis (For the longest time, we urged the previous administration to immediately act on the problems of our fellow Filipinos. They failed to respond to our OFWs),” chairperson Martinez added. Kathryn Jedi V. Baylon, INQUIRER.net trainee/KS/rga

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TAGS: Department of Labor and Employment, Migrante, Migrante International, Silvestre Bello
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