26 April 2010
Living in a makeshift barracks when off duty, resting under the truck trailer when on a trip
Filipino drivers are known to be good drivers. To many foreign employers they are the best drivers they could hire because aside from being able to communicate well with them and of being hard workers, Filipino drivers could easily be pleased.
“Filipino drivers may be the best drivers, but they too could be living in a most miserable situation in a foreign land: living in a makeshift barracks they made themselves when off duty, and under the truck trailer when travelling most of the time,” thus today said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
On April 23, a group of Filipino drivers numbering to more than 30 have sought assistance from Migrante officials in Dammam, eastern part of Saudi Arabia, not only to complain their employers’ labor malpractices but as well as their deplorable situation living in a makeshift accommodation they themselves have built so that they could rest during their day off or if there is no scheduled trip.
“Upon the Filipino drivers’ request, our Migrante officials head on to their barracks on the same day but all were surprised upon seeing the tired drivers living in a makeshift barracks at the side of a bungalow house, with no air-conditioning and even toilet, which the drivers said they made themselves because their employer did not provide them an accommodation to stay during their off duty or when they have no schedule for a trip,” Monterona added.
The Filipino drivers are working for Al Askar H. Transportation Establishment which main office is located in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
It was known that the Filipino drivers were deployed by Askar International Manpower & Services, a recruitment agency which office is located at Suite 1202-B, Ermita Center Bldg. 1350 Roxas Blvd. corner Sta. Monica, Manila.
According to OFW Johnny Badsegan, one of the Filipino track drivers, the original employment contract they have signed in the Philippines facilitated by their agency was grossly violated by their employer.
Based on the original contract, they should be receiving a monthly salary of 1,600 Saudi riyals but they are paid 700 + 200 Saudi riyals, as their monthly salary and travel allowance, respectively.
“The Filipino drivers lamented that often their meager salary has been deducted if they commit a traffic violation or any wrong doing as a consequence discharging their duty,” Monterona quoting the Filipino drivers’ signed complaints.
Some of them also complain that even their Iqama (work permit) have been confiscated for petty reasons, such as the trailer they are driving got mechanical problem or if the cargo got damaged or if they failed to arrive on time to their place of destination.
“What makes their situation worst is living on a makeshift barracks they made themselves without air-conditioning considering the climate is changing from cold of about 10°C to extreme heat reaching to 45°C during summer, and climate is getting hot now in the Middle East,” Monterona added.
Monterona added the Filipino drivers also complaints of their health and safety as they don’t have toilets and don’t even have a kitchen and refrigerator so that they could cook and eat properly.
“Their case has been properly endorsed to the attention of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) officials in Al Khobar last Friday (April 23), and a case dialogue with POLO officials took placed when some of the drivers have been accompanied by Migrante officials at the International Philippine School-Al Khobar (IPSA-Khobar),” Monterona added.
Monterona said Migrante is hoping that the POLO officials would immediately act on their complaints and calls the attention of their employer.
“The POLO-Eastern Region office, without further a do, should make representation in behalf of the Filipino drivers and affirmatively push their rightful demands as it is anyway stipulated on their original contract that has been grossly violated by their employer for more than a year now,” Monterona ended.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator