The wives and kin of more than 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who are currently on strike against their companies today held a picket protest in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office in Manila to demand the immediate repatriation of their loved ones.
The OFWs, dubbed Saudi 200++, consists of OFWs from Al Swayeh company, Al-Zahran, Al-Naseeb Establishment, Al Sabillah and Al Phat. They were all deployed to Saudi by active recruitment agencies licensed by the POEA, namely, Saveway International Man Power, Osims Oriental Skills International Manpower, RPF Business Management & Consultancy Inc, Irsal Employment Services Inc., GBMLT Manpower Services Inc., Nawras Manpower Services Inc. (formerly Nawras Manpower Services), Al Assal Manpower Inc., Matawi, 4 Brothers, and other still unidentified agencies.
They are all awaiting repatriation by the Philippine government after they have been stranded at POLO-OWWA shelters in Saudi since they held a hunger strike and “stop-work” protest against labor violations, maltreatment and abuse by their respective employers last July.
The Saudi 200++ are all victims of illegal recruitment and contract violations – overcharging of placement fees, contract substitution, collection of fees without official receipts, collection of excessive fees, loans with high interest rates, poor working accommodations, illegal salary deductions, non-issuance of IQAMA (working permit), non-payment of salaries in 10 months to over one year, no overtime pay, underpayment of salaries and non-renewal of expired contracts, residence permits and medical insurances.
The families of Saudi 200++ staged their picket protest today on the eve of the anniversary of the implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policies (OOP).
The OOP or OWWA Resolution No.038 was implemented on September 19, 2003, effectively making the $25 OWWA contributions mandatory per contract. The OOP also streamlined benefits and services provided by the OWWA to its members. The OOP had since been deemed anti-migrant by OFWs and advocates of migrants’ rights.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, it is the task of the Philippine government to ensure the OFWs’ welfare while on strike and while awaiting repatriation. The OWWA is the agency tasked to facilitate the OFWs’ repatriation because all are active members.
The Saudi 200++ and their families are also demanding the blacklisting of the Saudi companies, suspension of the licenses and banning of their illegal recruiters, the refund of their placement fees, their back wages, and financial assistance from the government.
“Ilang buwan nang walang trabaho ang mga OFWs natin sa Saudi. Hiling din ng kanilang mga pamilya na magkaroon ng financial assistance mula sa OWWA habang napakabagal ng repatriation sa kanila,” Martinez said.
The wives and relatives of Saudi 200++ are all set to hold week-long activities which will culminate on September 21. Among the activities are picket-protests, congressional inquiries and dialogues with legislators on allegations of labor rights violations, illegal recruitment and negligence of embassy and POLO-OWWA officials. ###