LEADING Filipino migrant rights group Migrante has urged the Philippine government to initiate a review of the bilateral agreement on domestic workers it signed with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia amid surging reports of violations and abuses involving Filipino domestic workers.
It was on May 2013 that the Philippines and Saudi Arabia finally signed an agreement after more than a year of hiring ban due to disagreement on household service workers (HSWs) wage, benefits, and issues related to abuses and maltreatment.
Stranded OFWs in Saudi
Main provisions of the agreement stipulate that Filipino HSWs receive a minimum monthly salary of SR1,500, in their own bank accounts, weekly rest days and daily rest periods, paid vacation leave, non-withholding of passports and work permits, free communication and humane treatment.
Housemaids, babysitters, laundrywomen, family drivers, cooks and gardeners were those covered by the agreement.
“The PHL-KSA agreement on HSWs was a reactive response by both governments due to the legitimate demand and intense campaigns led by Migrante-Middle East with Filipino HSWs, the Filipino community and their organizations. We, in fact, welcome its inking.”
“However, we have raised doubts on its implementation because there was no clear implementing mechanism in the household level that would ensure the good provisions of the agreement will be implemented to the benefits of both the employer and HSW,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante regional coordinator in Middle East.
Monterona added with rising numbers of Filipino domestic workers seeking assistance with Migrante affiliates in the Kingdom ranging from six to 8 cases daily, it only reveal that the agreement has not been effective since its signing and implementation way back May 2013.
He cited the numbers of Filipino domestic workers who are now staying at the Philippine embassy-run Bahay Kalinga (halfway shelter for women runaway) reaching to at least 200 and still counting.
“May napapauwi naman, 1, 2, 3, pero ang dumadagdag ay lima o sampung run away. Mula mismo sa mga POLO-OWWA welfare officers galing ang komentaryong yan,” he added.
“Also, at the deportation center in Riyadh, there are at least 100 HSWs waiting in vain for their repatriation. Some of them said they’ve been inside the deportation center three months ago, while others at almost six months. All are asking for help to facilitate their repatriation,” Monterona averred.
“The rampant cases of alleged abuses and violations on Filipino domestic workers should be seriously raised during regular PH-KSA labor joint committee meeting. Also, the swift and free mass repatriation of the Filipino domestic workers should also be put in the main agenda,” Monterona said.
Monterona said that forced migration of Filipinos, men and women, is a reality caused primarily by chronic economic crisis and scarcity of decent jobs.
“The only way to curb forced migration and substantially decrease the number of victims of abuses and labor violations abroad is to improve the local economy capable of generating decent jobs. The Philippines need a strong economic backbone by implementing genuine agrarian reform and nationalization of its basic industries, and abhor US imposed neo-liberal policies,” said Monterona, while agreeing to Ms. Lea Salonga who tweeted “I long for the day when our people no longer have to leave the Philippines to find work, because the work is in the Philippines’.