Saudi cautious, but agrees to discuss RP maid ban lift — Binay

Published by rudy Date posted on April 4, 2011

The Saudi govern-ment is non-committal to the Philippines’ request to lift the ban on Filipino domestic helpers but announced that it will soon introduce “reforms” to protect the rights of fo-reign workers in the King-dom.

Saudi imposed the deployment ban to protest the monthly wage increase from $200 to $400 being sought by the Aquino administra-tion for Filipino maids.

Riyadh issued a note verbale to the Philippine Embassy in March, saying “processing and verification of household service workers have been stopped until further notice.”

Vice President Jejo-mar Binay said Labor Minister Adel M. Fakeih “doubted that the work-ers would benefit from some of the new condi-tions being proposed by the Philippine govern-ment.”

Binay met with Fakeih and other senior Saudi officials last Saturday to discuss the labor con-cerns of the estimated 1.6 million Filipino workers.

Fakeih said Saudi Arabia would try to be “a good host” to the Filipinos and participate in solving the problems related to their working conditions and contract, but did not say if the ban would be lifted.

Binay said the Philippines and Saudi agreed to hold a bilateral consultation on April 15 to thresh out the concerns on both sides.

Saudi officials, he said, assured him that

any labor problems would resolved “in the best interest of the host government and the workers.”

Binay said he agreed to revisit some of the requirements being imposed by Philippine law on the recruitment of Filipinos.

Saudi Arabia conveyed to Binay that it is determined to reform the entire recruitment process for the benefit of the workers and their host or employers.

Part of this projected reform, Saudi officials said, would be the setting up of a 24-hour hotline which employees could use to report any complaint to the authorities, a system that would allow every employee to keep a bank account and require the employer to deposit her salary without any delay in that account, and legal assistance such as translation services in case of court cases.

“The minister called it ‘infrastructure of justice’ which he said could be in place before the end of the year,” Binay said.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh informed Binay that the most common complaints of Filipinos in Saudi involved delayed or unpaid salaries (25 percent), overwork (20%), maltreatment (20%), documentation/personal problems (19.7%), poor working conditions (12%), sexual harassment (3%) and rape (0.3%).

Binay said he was “surprised” at the figures because a group of party-list congressmen led by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello had written an article which made it appear that most female workers in Saudi Arabia were sexually abused by their employers.

The embassy of Saudi in Manila has lodged a protest to the Department of Foreign Affairs for the article.

In a separate meeting, Binay said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, son of the late King Faisal, praised the Filipino workers, saying “they were doing so much to strengthen Philippine-Saudi relations.”

“He said they were having relatively fewer problems with Filipinos than with other nationalities,” Binay said.

Filipinos are the fifth largest expatriates group in Saudi Arabia, after Egyptians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans.

Trade Minister Ahmad Zainal Reza said the Filipinos “are good ambassadors, very professional, and with a very high level of skills.”

Reza told Binya that most Saudi nationals are close to Filipinos because most of their children are reared by Filipino nannies. –Michaela P. del Callar, Daily Tribune

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