RIYADH: The migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) has urged the Philippine government to initiate a review of the bilateral agreement on domestic workers that it signed with Saudi Arabia amid surging reports of violations and abuses involving Filipino domestic workers.
In May 2013, the group announced that the Philippines and Saudi Arabia had finally signed an agreement after a hiring ban that lasted approximately one year due to disagreement regarding the wages, benefits, and issues related to abuses and maltreatment of workers.
The main provisions of the agreement stipulate that a Filipino domestic worker will 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, said John Leonard Monterona, the M-ME regional coordinator.
Housemaids, babysitters, laundrywomen, family drivers, cooks and gardeners were 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 about its implementation because there was no clear implementing mechanism at the household level that would ensure that the good provisions of the agreement will be implemented to the benefits of both the employer and the worker,” said Monterona.
Monterona added that with the rising numbers of Filipino domestic workers seeking assistance with Migrante affiliates in the Kingdom ranging from six to eight cases daily, it only serves to reveal that the agreement has not been effective since its signing.
He cited the numbers of Filipino domestic workers who are now staying at the Philippine Embassy-run Bahay Kalinga (halfway shelter for female runaways), which has now reached to at least 200 and counting.
“Also, at the deportation center in Riyadh, there are at least 100 HSWs waiting in vain for their repatriation. Some of them said that they’ve been inside the deportation centre for three months, while others have waited 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 the regular PH-KSA labor joint committee meeting. Also, the swift and free mass repatriation of the Filipino domestic workers should also be put on the main agenda,” Monterona suggested.
The M-ME averred that the forced migration of Filipinos, including both 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 to make it capable of generating decent jobs. The Philippines need a strong economic backbone by implementing genuine agrarian reform and nationalization of its basic industries.”
Monterona concluded by agreeing with Ms. Lea Salonga, who recently 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.”