“Cancer” of the company
Once a month, workers held a “welfare meeting” with the company supervisor to air their grievances.
But Tuburan said nothing resulted from these meetings because their grievances were never addressed. In stead, Limsan said, whenever they complained, the supervisor gave them a piece paper and said, “If you’re not happy, there’s a white paper, put your name and resign.”
The two told Bulatlat that the company terminated the contract of workers who complained. They cited the case of a certain Armida Tusino who was sent home by the company for leading the workers in complaining against the malpractices of the company. Migrante-Kuwait said the Philippine Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait denied that they received any complaints from the workers during that time.
While their grievances were ignored, they were charged from KD20 to KD30 whenever a patient complained.
Limsan also said the company Al Essa earned a lot from underpaying them. Al Essa, Limsan said, charges KD20 from each patient for 24-hour care. Even if they were assigned to take care of a twin or triplet and the company charges KD20 for each baby, their salary would still be the same.
“Sahod namin parang kuko lang, lahat napupunta na sa kanila,” (Our salary was so little, much like a nail, and almost all of the earinings form our patients went to the company.) said Limsan.
Because they were not given the details of their salary and the deductions, they suspected that they were being charged even for their accommodations at the hostel. This was later confirmed by a colleague.
Because they were the spokespersons of their group, Limsan and Tuburan were called by their employers as the “cancer” of the company. Their group composed of 11OFWs working in the same company eventually decided to file a complaint at the POLO in Kuwait.
To their dismay, Limsan said, the manager of the company told them, “Nothing will happen if you go to the embassy. It’s just a matter of money.”
But still they gave the POLO the benefit of the doubt. “Sad to say, walang nangyari,” (nothing happened) lamented Limsan.
Connivance of embassy officials?
Tuburan, who was the first among their group to file a complaint, was asked to meet with Al Essa general manager Murali Nair at the POLO. But Tuburan complained that the company vehicle that was supposed to transport her to the POLO did not arrive at the hostel.
After that, all the 11 OFW complainants decided to stand as a group and agreed to meet with the company manager only if all of them were present. When the time came for the meeting, the company vehicle that would take them to the POLO arrived late.
They later learned, Limsan said, that the company manager Nair and POLO desk officer Adam Mosa talked in private before they arrived.
“Disaapointed kami lahat bakit sila nag-usap na wala kami. Ano pinag-usapan nila doon?” (We were disappointed that they talked without us. What were they talking about?) said Limsan in a raised voice. She added that Mosa was even angry at them and did not entertain them. “Ma-feel mo talaga iba ang trato nila sa amin,” (We felt that they treated us differently.) she said.
Limsan said they told Labor Attaché Leopoldo de Jesus that based on the masterlist of the company, they were supposed to be paid least KD130 monthly but were given only about KD90 to KD102, but to no vail. “Bale wala lang sa kanya, lalakad-lakad lang, di s’ya nakikinig, kukuha ng tubig, magsi-CR,” (He was not listening. He walked around the room, took a glass of water, and went to the comfort room.) she said.
But when Gil Librea of Migrante-Kuwait arrived at the meeting, Limsan and Tuburan said, they noticed that the POLO personnel became uneasy.
According to Limsan, de Jesus said they had no case and that everything was just a misunderstanding. But Librea said that they complained against clear violations of their contract. Since they met Librea of Migrante, Limsan said, they would always inform him of their whereabouts, especially if their general manager would drive them to the POLO for a meeting or if they were asked to do something, just to make sure they would be safe. They heard that other OFWs ended up dead after filing complaints against their employer.
Limsan said she felt more frustrated when de Jesus’s response to their complaint was to scold them for agreeing to receive KD70 when they should be receiving a minimum of KD120 a month.
“Bakit ‘di mo ba alam sir? Bakit ka pumirma?” (Why, didn’t you know about it sir? Isn’t it you also signed our contract?) Limsan asked de Jesus. Limsan said the assistant labor attaché’s reply was that they signed just to facilitate the issuance of the visa. “Laro lang pala ‘yung mga pirma nila. Papel lang pala ito,” (So their signature meant nothing and the contract was just a piece of paper.) Limsan said.
Librea was unable to attend a meeting set in the morning of Jan. 30 because he had to work. Limsan suspected that the Jan. 30 meeting was purposely set in the morning unlike the previous meetings to prevent the Migrante representative from attending. “Kaya pala tinanong ni de Jesus si Gil kung anong oras ang trabaho n’ya, ’yun pala ’yun,” (It was no coincidence that de Jesus asked about Gil’s work hours.) Limsan said.