Saudi contract angers Filipinos

Angry recruitment agencies in the Philippines have threatened to stop recruiting Filipino construction workers to work in Saudi Arabia unless a unified contract is abolished by Saudi's Ministry of Interior.

Angry recruitment agencies in the Philippines have threatened to stop recruiting Filipino construction workers to work in Saudi Arabia unless a unified contract is abolished by Saudi's Ministry of Interior.

Victor Fernandez, president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters (Pasei) has urged his 750 members to refrain from signing the unified contract with the Saudi National Recruitment Committee members (Sanarcom).

If recruitment agencies in the Philippines sign the contract, they will no longer be able to deal directly with employers in Saudi Arabia but will have to go through a Saudi recruitment agency that is an existing member of Sanarcom.

Fernandez said that that the new contract is biased and unfair to the Filipino worker.

Under the contract, a worker cannot seek the help of the Philippine labour representative and disallows the services of mediators or any parties in settling disputes or disagreements of Filipino workers with their employers.

Speaking to Construction Week, a spokesperson from Pasei said, "Currently, a worker's contract goes through the Philippines overseas labour office, but if the unified contract is accepted, Sanarcom will do the verification of the workers contract.

This is highly objectionable to us as Sanarcom is not a government body, but an association of private recruitment companies. The unified contract is seeking to create a middleman between the worker and the employer and puts into place a brokering system which is unacceptable."

Industry associations rejected the new arrangement and most of them said that if the contract is implemented, Filipino recruitment agencies will disassociate themselves from the Saudi Arabian labour market and concentrate their deployment to other countries in the Middle East such as the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

The common consensus within the industry is that one of the options is to stop sending Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia.

"Currently, there are 1 million Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia in various categories. I believe that the unified contract was originally proposed for domestic helpers and not for workers in other categories. We can only look into the matter if the unified contract comes as a product of consultation between Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, and not as an imposition," said the Pasei spokesperson.

The Embassy of the Philippines in Riyadh had received no information about the unified contract from either the Saudi Interior ministry or Pasei.

The deployment of overseas Filipino workers is expected to drop next month.

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