RP, KSA vow strict compliance with new contract protecting household workers

October 4, 2012 9:37 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 4 — The Philippine Government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have both vowed to strictly comply with the new Standard Employment Contract (SEC) forged recently as a result of the bilateral negotiations between the two countries.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and KSA Ambassador Abdulla Al Hasan presented the salient provisions of agreement in a forum held Thursday in Buddha Bar in Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City.

“This is a model contract which we hope to replicate with other countries,” said Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Foreign Workers.

The Philippines and Saudi government have just finalized the US$ 400 minimum salary for thousands of household service workers (HSWs) in Saudi Arabia.

Ambassador Al Hasan said his government has agreed to stop the deployment suspension in Saudi after the Philippines agreed to do away with previous proposals they deem “tough” and “intruding” to the Saudi internal affairs.

Al Hasan said Philippine embassy and consulate officials in Saudi had previously asked them such things as good moral character certificates, location maps and photographs of families of employers.

“All of these made us to conclude this sanction which we deemed as not coinciding with world standards,” Al Hasan said.

Al Hasan also blamed the media for “exaggerating small” news of maltreatment of workers in Saudi.

Binay said the contract contains stronger guarantees for the welfare and protection for HSW, in addition to the strengthened policies and measures which the local agencies have set in place.

He credited the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its agencies, namely, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the forging of the agreement.

Binay said the agreement paves the way for the resumption of the verification and authentication of employment contracts of first-time Filipino household workers starting on October 1, 2012.

“These new measures will provide the HSWs who wish to work in Saudi Arabia with the protection they need and deserve,” he said.

Binay credited the Saudi government for extending to the Philippine government all the needed assistance to protect our workers.

”In my past visits, we made representations to the authorities for the repatriation of thousands of stranded kababayans, and our request was accommodated. These gestures of goodwill are affirmations of the strong relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia,” the vice president said.

With the new SEC, both governments can work together in enforcing a stronger regulatory regime for the deployment of HSWs and ensure that abuse and exploitation of HSWs are stopped.

Binay said the new SEC will make sure that uncaring recruiters, opportunistic middlemen, and abusive employers who do not treat HSWs with respect and dignity are penalized and banned from participating in overseas employment.

The Philippine government has committed to deliver on its obligations, including tightening the screws on erring employers, as well as recruitment agencies-both local and foreign.

“We will simplify further our own processes…..work with licensed recruitment agencies and immediately conduct a massive public information and education campaign both here in the Philippines and in Saudi Arabia on the major provisions of the SEC,” Binay said.

Aside from a minimum salary of US$ 400 a month, nannies in Saudi earn several rights and entitlements under the SEC.

“The payment of the salary starts upon worker’s actual reporting for work with the employer, with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) verifying employment contracts only after ensuring that the prospective employer has the financial capacity to pay the said amount,” Binay said.

In addition, the payment of the worker’s salary will be made through the banking system, where the employer is required to open a bank account for the HSW and deposit the salary regularly every end of the month.

Workers will have the custody of the passbook to ensure that “under payment, non-payment or delayed payment” of salary can easily be proved.

Household workers are also entitled for “rest hours and rest days”.

Household workers are also allowed a “paid vacation leave” after the end of two year contract with their employers.

Workers are also entitled to return to the Philippines to spend his paid vacation leave of 30 days for every 2 years of service with a round-trip economy class ticket. In case the HSW decides to renew his contract with the employer, he is entitled to receive an additional one-month salary.

The contract also calls for the employer to shoulder the cost of the worker’s transportation or air ticket to his worksite in Saudi Arabia and back to the Philippines upon completion of the employment contract.

The employer also bears the cost of repatriation to the Philippines in case their contract is terminated due to reasons not attributable to his/her.

In case of sickness, employers are required to provide a “paid medical leave” and medical attention.

“For acceptable medical reasons, the HSW shall be allowed to rest and shall continue to receive his/ her regular salary. The employer shall shoulder the medical expenses,” the agreement said.

The agreement also calls for the employer to provide the HSW with suitable and sanitary living quarters as well as adequate food or equivalent monetary allowance.

“These should not be deducted from the $ 400 monthly salary,” Binay said.

In case of death, the employer is responsible for the repatriation of the HSW remains and personal belongings to the Philippines as soon as legally possible and without undue delay.

Binay said the agreement also provided settlement mechanism for workers in case of contract disputes.

In case of dispute between the employer and the HSW, the two contracting parties may refer the dispute to the appropriate Saudi authorities for conciliation and/ or resolution, the agreement states.

The worker shall be repatriated at the employer’s expense in the event of war, civil disturbance or major natural calamity, or in case the worker suffers from serious illness or work injury medically proven to render him/ her incapable of completing the contract.(PNA)

LAM/BG/UTB

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