By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Migrante International said last week it is standing by the statement of its Middle East coordinator John Monterona that more than 200 overseas Filipino workers employed in Al Arrab Contracting Company had gone one strike.
Earlier, Labor attaché Rustico dela Fuente of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh denied in a report attributed to Migrante that the workers were on strike, saying that they only stopped from working for a day. “The management talked to the workers and they are back to work now,” he said.
But Migrante International chairman Garry Martinez said that “for as long as there is ‘work stoppage,’ it is already considered a strike.” He called the strike a “breakthrough since the workers on strike were able to sit down with the members of the management to talk about their labor disputes.”
Martinez said Monterona’s report were all based from the statements of distressed OFWs themselves who have asked Migrante’s help through the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS).
“Concocting stories and making lies are not part of and would never be part of our advocacy,” Monterona said, adding that they have all necessary documents, including exchange of emails, names and photos of OFW leaders and their contact numbers to prove that the strike really happened.
The 200 Filipino migrant workers were reportedly asking assistance as some of them have not yet received their iqama, or residency permit, for almost a year, defying Article 40.3 of the Saudi Labor law. They also complained that the company did not pay the engineers for their overtime services. Al Arrab, according to Migrante’s statement, has promised to give their employees “bonuses” but “only selected employees who are friends of the managers received the said bonus.”
The OFWs also complained that Al Arrab did not follow the minimum wage for certain positions in Saudi Arabia such as mechanical engineers, civil engineers, electrical engineers, procurement engineers, architects, document controllers and secretaries. Maltreatment, discrimination and the lack of safety measures in their working environment for their employees were also the issues that the OFWs wanted to discuss with Al Arrab.
In a letter dated Feb. 2, the OFWs sent a letter to the Al Arrab management to voice out their concerns over their labor disputes. They also sent a letter addressed to the Philippine embassy in Riyadh requesting their assistance to intercede and settle their grievances against their employer.
“We humbly call for help as we could not bear the difficulties that every one of us is facing. We would all be very happy to hear from you. This action is not solely for the benefit of the Filipinos but for other nationalities also that are experiencing the same problem. We want to have a better employer-employee relationship and to continuously render our humble services to this company as long as these issues are going to be settled the soonest time possible,” the Filipino migrant workers said in their letter.
But the company did not respond promptly, forcing the workers to hold the one-day strike.
On Feb. 6, the 200 Filipino migrant workers were joined by a hundred other migrant workers in their strike. Monterona said in a statement that instead of facing the complaints of the migrant workers, the migrant workers who struck were threatened to be deported without compensation if they did not sign a waiver of their complaints and issue a letter of apology. GMAnews.tv reported that Al Arrab had resolved the issues raised by the workers “on the spot,” among them the provision of an automated payment system to ensure that the workers will receive their salaries on time.
“They recently went back to work,” Martinez said. “The OFWs working in Al Arrab would monitor if the company will observe the things they discussed in their negotiations.” (Bulatlat.com)