Saudi Arabia ensures Filipino staff paid after Azmeel 'lock-out'
Azmeel has pledged to compensate its OFWs through an agreement witnessed by Saudi's Ministry of Labour
Filipino employees of Saudi Arabia’s Azmeel Contracting Corporation will be paid their overdue wages and provided flights home after the contractor’s “lock-out”, according to a statement by the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Philippines News Agency (PNA) reported that the first batch of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have already been repatriated. Citing unnamed reports, PNA added that the Jubail-headquartered contractor had “barred its employees from their place of work after the company’s assets were frozen by the Saudi government”. The reasons for Azmeel’s lock-out were not provided by the report.
Meanwhile, in a statement, DOLE said that the OFWs were also not issued iqama documentation (residence permits), adding that the employees were “given a different contract by their company”. Additional details about the contract type were not revealed by DOLE.
Silvestre Bello III, the Labour Secretary of the Philippines, said on 24 October 2018 that in order to fast-track the repatriation process, “we will shoulder first the travel expenses and Azmeel will just pay us”.
During a press briefing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Bello added that Azmeel had promised to provide the OFWs’ overdue salaries, as well as pay the fare for their travel back home. This agreement between Azmeel and the Filipino government, Bello added, had been witnessed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Labour.
PNA said its government has started repatriating the 1,470 affected OFWs, with the first batch having already had their salaries paid and been provided $372 (PHP20,000) in assistance. This group of employees arrived from Dammam, while the succeeding batches of Filipino workers are set to arrive weekly until December.
Bello said the affected OFWs were formerly employed in construction jobs and are qualified to land work on two department projects under the Filipino government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ programme, according to the PNA report.