Philippines, Saudi ink ‘historic’ agreement on HSWs-A A +A
Monday, May 20, 2013
MANILA -- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Philippines signed Sunday the Agreement on Domestic Worker Recruitment in a simple ceremony at the Hilton Jeddah hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The deal was signed by Philippine Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Labor Minister Engineer Adel Bin Mohammed Fakeih.
"Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the Standard Employment Contract, which recognizes, among others, the SR1,500 minimum entry level salary," Baldoz said.
The event, described by Baldoz as "historic," heralds an era of stronger bilateral labor cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the better protection and welfare of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in the Kingdom.
"This agreement is very historic because this is the first time that Saudi Arabia is signing such a kind of agreement with a labor-sending country in the world," said Minister Fakeih.
The signing comes right after last year's agreement on a Standard Employment Contract, which shall be followed by employers and Filipino HSWs in Saudi Arabia.
Back in March 2011, the Saudi government had decided to suspend the processing, verification and authentication of employment contracts of Filipino HSWs.
The decision was supposedly spurred by the steep minimum wage insisted by the Philippine government, which was a $400 a month salary for HSWs.
Aside from the issue on minimum wage, the standard contract provides for the HSWs weekly rest days and daily rest periods, paid vacation leave, non-withholding of passports and work permits, free communication, and humane treatment.
"We expect that this agreement will increase the number of HSWs employed in Saudi Arabia, but we are very confident that cases of abuse will be less because of this agreement," said Baldoz.
The Labor chief said there is an estimated 670,000 Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia, but only around nine percent of them, or 60,000, are HSWs.
The agreement, the first of its kind to be signed by the Saudi government with a country of origin for migrant workers such as the Philippines, lays down areas of cooperation between the two countries, which shall include the following:
(1) A mutually acceptable recruitment and deployment system;
(2) Recruitment of domestic workers through recruitment offices that practice ethical recruitment and are licensed by their respective governments;
(3) Prohibition to charge or deduct from the salary of the domestic worker any cost attendant to recruitment and deployment nor impose any kind of unauthorized salary deductions;
(4) Right of recourse to competent authorities in case of contractual disputes, in accordance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations;
(5) Legal measures against recruitment offices, companies, or agencies for any violation of applicable laws, rules and regulations; and
(6) Resolution of any issue arising from the implementation and enforcement of the agreement.
She said the agreement also establishes specific responsibilities of the Saudi government, which includes the authenticity of the employment contract; opening of a bank account in the name of the domestic worker; a 24-hour mechanism for domestic workers' assistance; expeditious settlement of labor contract violation cases; and facilitation of exit visas for repatriation upon contract completion or during emergency situations.
As for the Philippine government, the specific responsibilities include ensuring that workers are qualified and medically fit with no derogatory record, and verification of all employment contracts submitted by Saudi recruitment offices.
A Joint Committee with senior officials from both sides as members has also been formed to conduct periodic review, assessment, and monitoring of the agreement, said Baldoz. (HDT/Sunnex)