Minimum wage for domestics Recruiters want PH to settle row with Saudi

Published by rudy Date posted on May 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Labor recruiters want the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to reopen talks on the on the deployment of Filipino maids to the Middle Eastern kingdom after the latter suspended the hiring of domestics due to the issue on wages.

“The two sides should meet again as soon as possible. We have done much progress and only deadlocked on the salary issue,” Lito Soriano, a convenor of the Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic Services and a member of the Philippine delegation told the Inquirer.

The Philippine working group should meet with their Saudi Arabian counterparts again to reopen talks, Soriano said in a phone interview from Singapore, where he is on a business trip.

The Saudi government recently suspended the deployment of Filipino domestics after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) doubled the mandatory monthly wage for maids to $400.

A Saudi delegation that arrived early this month requested that the salary revert to the old $200 but the POEA refused. Thus, the deployment suspension has remained.

Soriano underscored the need for the POEA and the labor department to consult with governments of host countries and other stakeholders, particularly the private sector, before coming out with new wage rates.

“Most Middle Eastern countries do not really regard maids a part of the regular work force. There are no minimum wage rates. This is a lesson for the Philippines that it cannot just impose its rules on OFW-receiving countries,” Soriano said.

Soriano said there are 100,000 to 200,000 Filipino domestics in Saudi Arabia. The POEA said the country deploys about 13,000 maids to the kingdom every year.

The mandatory wage hike was imposed in 2006 by the POEA. Additional skills upgrading, country-specific culture and language re-orientation, among others, were also adopted, supposedly to make the maids more competitive and thus fetch higher pay.

The plan was partly intended to ensure that maids would go to employers who do not mistreat their servants.

Recruiters were also barred from collecting placement fees from their recruits. A recently-adopted policy required recruiters to obtain insurance coverage for the maids they send abroad.

Soriano said there might actually be a few abused maids if the number of Filipino women seeking shelter with the Philippine embassy and overseas labor offices is compared with the total number of Filipino domestics in the kingdom.

There are 1,000 to 2,000 maids, mostly runaways who claimed they were abused, stranded in the shelters awaiting for repatriation, headded.

He said the number of overstaying Filipino maids might increase as Saudi employers hold on to their current maids while awaiting for their replacement from other countries. –Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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