Saudi expects new labor pact with PH

By Estrella Torres, BusinessMirror

Posted at May 07 2013 08:08 AM | Updated as of May 07 2013 04:08 PM

The Saudi government hopes that the final text of the proposed bilateral labor agreement with the Philippines will be signed during the visit to Riyadh of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on May 18-19.

Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Abdullah Al-Hassan said, “the drafting of the  proposed bilateral labor agreement took so long as it covered extensive provisions.”

“I’m proud to say that this is the first [labor] agreement to be signed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a sending country of foreign workers. It covers broad provisions that will regulate the process of sending [Filipino] workers to Saudi,” said Al-Hassan in an interview at the Saudi Embassy on Monday.

He expects the agreement to be signed during the visit of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on May 18 and 19 in Riyadh.

Despite the recent crackdown on undocumented foreign workers in Saudi, including some 20,000 Filipinos, the Saudi envoy said the proposed labor agreement with the Philippine government manifests the intention of his government to continue hiring more Filipino workers through legal means.

“We continue to strengthen bilateral ties with the Philippines by exerting efforts to widen economic, political and particularly labor relations to ensure the consistent flow of Filipino workers to Saudi by legal means,” said Al-Hassan.

He said with the presence of some 8 million foreign workers, at least 1.2 million of them are Filipinos, Saudi still needs millions of foreign workers for its infrastructure development.

In 2011 Saudi stopped processing, verifying and authenticating the visa applications of Filipino domestic workers, following the enforcement of the kingdom’s amended migrant workers law that requires rules that protect the rights and welfare of Filipino domestic workers.

Among the rules include the grant of a minimum monthly salary of $400 and the full disclosure of identities, including the addresses and background of Saudi employers, for verification by Philippine government authorities in case of reports of abuse and maltreatment.

Saudi employers, however, found the minimum salary ceiling too high, saying it should only be $200. Many  of them also refuse the full disclosure of backgrounds for security purposes.

Early last year the Saudi government resumed the processing of applications of Filipino domestic workers and agreed to start the negotiation for a bilateral labor agreement.

In an earlier interview, Baldoz said the government included in the labor agreement the provision of the $400 minimum salary for Filipino domestic workers bound for Saudi and the requirement of the full disclosure of background by Saudi employers.

She said one of the provisions is to require Saudi employers to open a bank account for the Filipino domestic workers so the government can trace their compliance with the provision.