Saudi 204 on strike, camp-out at PH embassy in Riyadh

After staging a hunger strike last week, at least 194 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from five companies based in Saudi Arabia continue to hold strikes and “stop-work” protests against labor violations, maltreatment and abuse by their employers.

The Saudi 204 consists of 98 OFWs from Al Swayeh company, 48 cleaners from Al-Zahran, 17 OFWs from Al-Naseeb Establishment, 19 OFWs from Al Sabillah and 12 OFWs from Al  Phat.  The last batch of OFWs from Al Phat is latest addition to the protesting workers. As of this posting, 10 more OFWs from Ali Fahad Al-Huraish Establishment have sought the help of Migrante International on similar complaints.

Families of the Saudi 204 today held a picket protest at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office in Manila to demand their relatives’ immediate repatriation. Their families also held dialogues with legislators to call for congressional inquiries and investigations on the allegations of labor rights violations, illegal recruitment and negligence of embassy and POLO-OWWA officials

The Saudi 204 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.

The OFWs were 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.

Last Saturday, July 28, OFWs from Al Swayeh trooped to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and started their camp-out. OFWs from Al-Zahran are expected to join them shortly. Meanwhile, the other OFWs are still on strike in their respective accommodations. The Saudi 204 is demanding the facilitation of their immediate repatriation by the government. “Umabot na sa sukdulan ang pasakit sa ating mga kababayan. Bagamat wala na silang pagkain, tirahan at sahod, pinipili pa rin nilang magkaisa at magprotesta sa kagustuhang makauwi na dito sa Pilipinas,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

The OFWs and their families are also demanding the blacklisting of the five companies, suspension of the licenses and banning of the erring recruitment agencies, the refund of their placement fees, their back wages, and financial assistance from the government.

“They are resolved to sustain their camp-out until the Embassy heeds their demands. Wala na raw alisan doon hanggat hindi sila nare-repatriate,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International Chairperson. Martinez said that the OFWs on “camp-out” complained that they were being ignored by government officials. “Ilang araw na silang naroon at hindi man lang daw sila hinaharap ng mga kinauukulan. Wala silang pagkain, walang maayos na tulugan.”

Martinez said that it is the task of the Philippine embassy to ensure our OFWs’ welfare while on strike and while awaiting repatriation. ###