Riyadh rejects maids’ bid for pay increase

Published by rudy Date posted on May 23, 2011

THE Philippines on Friday said that Saudi Arabia had rejected a demand to guarantee higher pay for Filipino maids, temporarily closing one of the largest labor markets for job-hungry Manila.

The dispute began early this year after the Philippines demanded a minimum $400 monthly wage for its domestic workers as well as proof that Saudi Arabian households employing them would pay and provide humane working conditions.

With 1.3 million Filipinos on its soil, Saudi Arabia is one of the major host countries for the 9 million-strong Philippine overseas workers and the impasse will hurt both countries, Filipino labor official Carlos Cao told Agence France-Presse.

“It’s a problem for both [Riyadh and Manila]. On their part, they won’t have household service workers,” said Cao, the head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

“On the [part of the Philippine] government, we won’t be able to send out household workers,” he added.

Filipinos working abroad sent $18.8 billion home to their families last year, up 8.2 percent from a year earlier, the central bank said.

Cao said that the latest attempt to resolve the dispute with Saudi Arabia broke down in bilateral talks held two weeks ago.

At that meeting, he added, Riyadh agreed to furnish details of prospective employers to the Philippine government, but balked at the pay hike, offering instead a base monthly salary of $210.

Cao said Manila had crafted the measures in 2007 in an attempt to protect its citizens after repeated reports of rapes, beatings and even killings of Philippine domestic workers.

“There was no minimum [wage] imposed before that. So beginning [in] 2007, we required a minimum salary for all household service workers for all countries,” he added.

“We want to protect our household service workers,” Cao said.

The two governments expect to resume ministerial-level talks on the issue next month, he added.

Besides maids, Saudi Arabia also hosts higher paid Filipino professionals including nurses, doctors and engineers. –AFP

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