By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Twenty-three overseas Filipino workers who have been working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for only three to six months want to be repatriated after their employer based in Riyadh failed to give them the salary stipulated in their contract and because of the poor, unhealthy facility provided to them by the company.
The 23 OFWs signed a contract that said they would receive a salary of 940 riyals a month and a food allowance of $50, said John Monterona, Middle East coordinator of the migrant’s group Migrante International. However, they were given a monthly salary of only 641 riyals and were not provided with a food allowance, Monterona said, quoting Gemma Vallarta, one the OFWs.
Monterona said Vallarta also complained about their unhealthy accommodations, causing some of them to get sick. Many developed asthma while others contracted cough and fever.
On August 17, the 23 OFWs decided not to work for three weeks to call the attention of their employer, the Baljurasi Rehabilitation Center, an outsourcing company, and M/s Annasban, the recruitment agency. The 23 OFWs are Vallarta, Angela Sumugat, Virginita Apuya, Virgin Joy Flancia, Dorylyn Quilaquil, Jennette Mundin, Teresita Buquel, Jennifer Floralde, Susan Lumagui, Amparo Ramos, Maricel Marcolino, Marissa Marquina, Elsie Pelago, Riza Tagapan, Charina Sagum, Lizi Joy Heart Gellangarin, Jocelyn Madela, Mylene Pujeda, Jocelyn Villarba, Jorny Perales, Jovelyn Melicor, Arlinda Bunio and Imelda Pates.
M/s Annasban is reportedly asking them to pay for the processing costs of their deployment to Saudi Arabia.
On August 27, the Baljurasi Rehabilitation Center transferred the OFWs to a new “home” in Riyadh. But, Monterona said, their situation remained the same.
“Their accommodations in Riyadh still have no proper ventilation. Their rooms had no air conditioning, even as the temperature ranged from 42 to 46 degrees,” Monterona said in a statement. He added that the new “home” was like a detention cell.
The 23 OFWs have already asked for the assistance of the Philippine consular office in Jeddah. However, aside from supplying them with food and their other needs, the consulate did not lift a finger to address the more pressing problems of the migrant workers. A representative from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh visited the OFWs but was not able to convince the employer to hear, let alone respond, to their demands.
In the first place, Monterona said, the M/s Annasban should not have been given a license to continue recruiting Filipinos because of the numerous complaints filed against it. Migrante has records of these complaints. For example, in 2006, 38 OFWs in Saudi Arabia filed a complaint against M/s Annasban for unfair labor practices. A year later, another set of 15 OFWs filed a similar complaint.
“In fact, during several previous case dialogues with POLO officials in Riyadh, we agreed that M/s Aniban should be blacklisted as it failed to comply with and is actually intentionally breaching its contract with the OFWs it hires,” Monterona said, “But it seems M/s Annasban has been very active in hiring OFWs in the Philippines.”
M/s Annasban has four other counterpart recruitment agencies based in the Philippines namely, M/s Placewell, which recruits applicants in Metro Manila and Cavite, M/s UPPI, which operates in the cities of Davao and Butuan, M/s Global and M/s Faveway, which recruits applicants from Palawan and other parts of Southern Tagalog.
“I am quite sure they have asked placement fees from their recruits and deployed OFWs who became victims of labor malpractices abroad,” Monterona said.
Monterona said the POLO should not hesitate in blacklisting M/s Annasban so as to prevent it from victimizing future, as well as returning OFWs. (Bulatlat.com)