GMA News report. More than 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Saudi Arabia have stopped working since Saturday in protest of alleged unfair labor practices of their employer.
In a statement, migrant workers’ rights group Migrante-Middle East said the workers, composed mainly of engineers, supervisors and construction workers, have decided to stop working after their company, Al Arab Contracting Company Ltd., paid no heed to their complaints.
In a letter addressed to the company dated February 2, the OFWs raised concerns on the company’s several alleged violations of the Saudi Labor Law, such as withholding of their 2-month salary, non-payment of overtime pay, non-compliance with the Kingdom’s standard salary rates, unsafe working environment and discrimination.
“Until today, we are still awaiting the distribution of our November 2009 salaries. When we were recruited from the Philippines, we were not informed that the Company will withhold our 2-month salary until we finished our contract,” the workers said in their letter, with which Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor was also furnished a copy.
The OFWs also bewailed in the letter the company’s alleged failure to release their salaries every first week of the month as indicated in its own policies. The Saudi Labor Law also mandates that overtime pay per hour be 150 percent of the basic hourly rate, but the workers said they only receive the basic rate.
They also scored the company for allegedly having one of the lowest rates in the Kingdom, which the workers said fall below the standard salary rates, for such positions as mechanical engineer, civil engineer, electrical engineer, and architect.
Some employees have also reportedly yet to receive their iqama or residence permits, as mandated under the Kingdom’s labor law, for almost a year now.
“With these, we call for help as we could not bear the difficulties that every one of us is facing. This action is not solely for the benefit of the Filipinos but for other nationalities also that are experiencing the same problem. We want to have a better employer-employee relationship and to continuously render our services to this company as long as these issues are going to be settled the soonest time possible,” the workers said in their letter.
Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, however, said the workers’ concerns remain unaddressed both by the company and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Saudi.
The workers have sought the assistance of Migrante-affiliated labor group Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan and decided to stop working as a “last resort”.
“We are calling on the POLO in Riyadh to act promptly on the legitimate complaints and demands of the OFWs employed by Al Arab Contracting Company, and to represent them in settling their case with their employer,” Monterona said.
The protesting OFWs are deployed in the capital city of Riyadh, as well as in the cities of Hofuf and Taif in the southern region of Saudi Arabia.
Al Arrab Contracting Company Ltd. is a construction and development services company listed as one of the top 225 international contractors in the world in 2009 by the Engineering News Record.
As of October last year, over 900,000 OFWs have been deployed in the oil-rich country in the Middle East according to government figures, making it the top destination of OFWs in 2009. Source: KBK, GMANews.TV.