Over 20 overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia are now awaiting repatriation after they quit their jobs due to their company’s alleged contract violations.
However, just four days before their resignation’s effectivity, the 26 machine operators from Jeddah have yet to receive the final details of their repatriation and more importantly, a notice on who will shoulder the cost of their tickets.
As a result, the workers fear they may either be kicked out of the accommodation provided by their company, or forced to just finish their two-year contracts despite their complaints.
In an interview with GMANews.TV, a worker who requested anonymity said their company, Arabian Gulf Manufacturers Ltd. for Plastic, has failed to pay them for overtime work. Moreover, the company has reportedly been making illegal salary deductions.
The machine operator added they were given a contract different from the one they signed with their recruitment agency in Manila.
“In our original contract, we’re supposed to receive 1,200 Saudi riyals (about P14,760) but we’re only getting 900 (P11,070),” the worker explained.
The original contract dated March last year, obtained from migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East, also indicates the workers were supposed to be paid for overtime work, but the worker said they did not receive any extra compensation.
On May 20, the 26 workers filed their resignation effective a month later as required by Saudi’s labor law.
However, the workers remain uncertain if their agency, Armstrong Resources Corp. (ARC), would shoulder their repatriation.
In a separate interview, Labor Attache Vicente Cabe clarified the agency has agreed to pay for the workers’ plane tickets.
“(The agency) called me last week and said they will provide the tickets. We’re just waiting if indeed the 26 workers will push through with being repatriated,” Cabe told GMANews.TV.
But he was unable to give the exact date as to when the workers will be repatriated.
ARC refused to comment when reached by phone, saying it is attending to “more important issues,” a staff member who refused to be identified said.
According to the worker, they wrote the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to seek assistance regarding their plight as early as September 2009.
The POEA forwarded the letter to the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah for action, which Cabe said he did not receive.
Around April, Cabe said he initiated talks with the company for a possible resolution.
“We were unable to convince the company. The company was offering free transportation and accommodation, but the original contract includes provision for food and laundry. The workers found the offer unacceptable,” Cabe explained.
Cabe added the complaining workers originally numbered 36, but ten decided to just continue with their employment contract despite its departure from the original agreement.
If conciliatory talks now ongoing would not prosper, appropriate charges will be filed before the Primary Commission of Saudi’s Ministry of Labor, he said.
No tickets yet
With their resignation’s effectivity just a few days away, the workers remain unsure regarding the date of their repatriation.
“I am really worried so I did not go to work today. However, I did not receive any categorical response from the POEA, which is coordinating with the agency, if we already have tickets,” the worker said.
He added their company is also asking them to present their tickets two days before their resignation’s date of effectivity, so that their exit papers can be processed.
“If we can’t present the tickets, the company said they will ignore our resignation and force us to finish our contracts. We may also be kicked out of our accommodation, and we have nowhere to go,” the worker explained.
He likewise scored the POEA and the labor office in Jeddah for their slow response, and for seemingly ignoring their plight by allowing more OFWs to be deployed by their agency.
“Just yesterday (Tuesday), eight more OFWs arrived at the company deployed by our agency,” the worker said.
The POEA cannot be reached for comment as of posting time.
By RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV