PH seeks better working conditions for OFWs in Saudi through labor pact
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government is seeking to better protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia through a bilateral employment agreement with the middle eastern country.
Fresh from a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they agreed to establish technical working groups, one for each country, to tackle the proposed labor pact.
These groups, Bello noted, would discuss “all the provisions and the agreements that would provide protection to our workers.”
“Ang usapan, sabi ko punta kayo dito (sa Pilipinas) ng one week, tapos kami naman pupunta diyan ng one week, until we’ve come up with an agreement that will be signed,” Bello told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on Friday.
According to Bello, the proposed agreement with the Saudi government would mirror the “template contract of employment” agreed to by the Philippines and Kuwait in May 2018.
Bello said that the proposed deal would include provisions ensuring that the employer would not be in possession of a worker’s passport and that OFWs would be able to keep their cellular phones.
Provisions on specific working and sleeping hours, among others, would also be included.
Bello further said that the relocation of a worker without a written agreement and knowledge of the Philippines’ labor attaché there would be prohibited under the agreement.
The labor chief accompanied more than 100 OFWs who were repatriated from the Philippine halfway house in Riyadh. Most of them ran away from their employers.
He said around 200 more, who are still housed in the government shelter, would be repatriated soon.
Most of the OFWs who opted to leave their job were maltreated, he added.
“Meron din ‘yong…pagdating nila dun ang akala nila ang paglilinkuran nila ay isang pamilya, pero alam mo ang culture nila dun yung isang tatay ang daming anak, kasama yun eh, extension, yung ating worker, expecting that she would serve one family, ang lumalabas mga tatlo, apat na pamilya, kaya nahihirapan yung ating iverseas workers,” he said.
Bello visited Saudi to discuss with his counterpart the full settlement of the P4.2 billion unpaid wages and monetary claims of almost 8,000 workers who were repatriated back in August 2016.
“Mga iba nakahanap na ng trabaho, yung iba nabigyan na ng bagong employment sa gobyerno,” Bello said.
“Hopefully, makuha natin at the soonest possibe time dahil three years na rin yan eh, may namatay na nga eh hindipa nakukuha yung unpaid wages nila,” he added.
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