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Saudi bans Filipino maids

Disagreement over pay prompts hiring freeze

The Philippines will seek clarification from Saudi Arabia about the latter’s announcement that it would stop granting work permits for Filipino domestic workers, Malacañang said Thursday.

Philippine officials will also look for other markets for its workers in the event that the freeze, announced in Riyadh on Wednesday, is put into full effect, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told a news conference.

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Saudi authorities announced the new policy, which also affects maids from Indonesia, after failing to agree on hiring conditions imposed by the Asian countries.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz “is sending a labor attaché to Saudi Arabia to verify these things,” Lacierda said.

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Some 1.3 million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, a key market for the nine million-strong overseas-based Filipino workforce. Between 120,000 and 150,000 are employed as domestic workers, said the Saudi-based overseas Filipino workers (OFW) group Migrante-Middle East.

“There are other countries that would be ready to absorb those that cannot be accommodated by Saudi Arabia, so the secretary of labor already anticipated that,” Lacierda said.

Still verifying

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was “still verifying reports” the Saudi Arabian government had stopped issuing work permits to domestic helpers from the Philippines.

“Next Monday, embassy officials led by Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago will take up the issue with Saudi labor ministry officials,” said Special Assistant Enrico Fos.

Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it would stop granting work permits to domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, following hiring conditions imposed by the Asian countries, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

The Saudi ministry of labor said it would “stop issuing work visas to bring domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, effective from Saturday” due to “the terms of recruitment announced by the two countries,” AFP quoted from a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

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“The ministry’s decision coincides with its great efforts to open new channels to bring domestic workers from other sources,” said ministry spokesperson Hattab bin Saleh al-Anzi in the statement.

Formal announcement

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Chief Carlos Cao Jr. said the announcement was a formalization of the March 12 note verbale sent out by the Saudi Embassy in Manila asking for the temporary suspension of the processing, verification and authentication of employment contracts of household service workers (HSWs).

“[The Saudis] want to pay only $200 in monthly salary to HSWs and not $400 that the Philippine government is insisting for the benefit, welfare and protection of our HSWs. The new note verbale is an offshoot of the earlier note,” Cao explained in a text message.

The POEA administrator justified the Philippine government’s position on the wage issue saying, “Just like Indonesia, our paramount consideration is the dignity welfare and protection of our HSWs.”

A member of the Philippine technical working group that negotiated with the Saudis on the terms of deployment of HSWs said the hiring of new maids was practically stopped three months ago.

“This is just the public and official announcement of the new policy on the deployment ban and this signifies the failure of the negotiations,” Lito Soriano, convenor of the Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic Helpers, told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

Soriano said that apart from the monthly deployment, the more than 100,000 domestics currently in Saudi Arabia on two-year contracts would also be affected as they would no longer be rehired. With a report from AFP

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TAGS: Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic Helpers, Filipino domestic helpers, freeze hiring, Indonesians, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Overseas Filipino Workers, Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Chief Carlos Cao Jr., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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