90 Saudi OFWs stage camp-out protest at PHL labor office

ABOUT 90 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) staged a sit-in protest inside the Philippine Overseas Labor office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, to press for the release of their unpaid salaries, end of service benefits, and immediate repatriation.

Eric Jocson, chairperson of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS)-Migrante-Riyadh, said the distressed Filipino workers from Al-Swayeh company started to arrive today (July 28) at the POLO compound around 8:00 o’clock in the morning, Saudi time.

Filipino migrants rights group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, said “at around 10a.m. there were already 90 of them inside the POLO compound. Some walking and others sitting as a form of a peaceful demonstration to press the POLO and their employer to release their unpaid salaries, end of service benefits, and their immediate repatriation,” Jocson in his report to M-ME.

On September 2011, 98 OFWs filed a labor case against their employer Al-Swayeh Company for non-payment of salaries and end of service benefits before the Saudi Labor court as they have already completed their contract and wanted to return to the Philippines.

Aside from Filipino workers, the company also employed two thousand (2,000) workers of different nationalities such as Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Egyptians.

“We’ve known that not all of them were fully paid of their unpaid salaries and end of service benefits. Thus, the group collectively decided to stage a peaceful sit-in protest inside the POLO compound after staging a 1-day hunger strike on July 20,” Monterona added.

Monterona added that what pushes the OFWs to stage a sit-in and campout at the POLO compound is the confirmation that most of the workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Egypt were already paid of their entitlements and salaries, and were due for repatriation.

“The protesting OFWs claimed that they were left behind and were not properly represented by POLO officials when negotiating their claims to their employer and the Saudi Labor court,” Monterona added.

Monterona revealed that the Manila-based recruitment agencies of the OFWs called Migrante International-Rights and Welfare Committee informing that they are now ready to provide the airfare tickets of their deployed workers.

“You can’t expect the workers to just go home without receiving their unpaid salaries for months and entitlement such as end of service benefits. They’ve worked hard for it and it’s the product of their hard labor,” Monterona added.

Aside from Al-Swayeh Filipino workers, there are other distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia in protest against their employer: the 17 OFWs from Al-Naseeb Establishment, 19 OFWs from Al-Sabillah Construction, and other individual repatriation cases handled by Migrante chapters.

“We urged Pres. Aquino III to instruct the labor department to properly attend the problems of the distressed Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia. There are about 140 families of OFWs were affected. It will just take a few seconds to call DoLE Sec. Baldoz and instruct her to attend the Filipino workers’ plea,” Monterona said.

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