The Slaves of Madagascar: Abused OFWs Repatriated for Fighting for Their Rights

Usually Harsh

“Whenever I work abroad, I always expect that working conditions would be usually harsh and that one of the biggest challenges is enduring being away from my family,” Costes said. “It is a sacrifice I was willing to make but it would be in vain if we are not compensated properly. When OFWs are being denied fair salary, they will put up a good fight. Why else would we leave the country in the first place?”

Since Kentz has taken over the operations of Ambatovy Project, the workers’ rate per hour were reduced to $3.33 from $4. Complaints of salary discrepancy flooded the company’s accounting department as some of the workers’ mandays – or the days of work they put in — were not paid. Salary delays also became frequent.

Kentz also hired a company in the Philippines, Consortium, to deposit the workers’ salaries into their bank accounts, something that the previous contractor, Keangnam, did on its own.

Kentz also did not issue them any pay slips, which in itself is a violation of both Philippine and Madagascar laws, the workers alleged in their complaint to Migrante International, which has been helping them in pursuing their case before the POEA.

During this time, the Filipino workers were already planning action against the company for unfair labor practice. “We are not fighting our company. We are fighting for our rights,” Costes said before his colleagues in a protest action in front of the POEA office on January 11.

The OFWs will soon file a case against Kentz, a major contractor in Madagascar. (Photo by Janess Ann Ellao /


Despite the complaints of the workers, Costes said Kentz ignored them. This forced the workers to stage rallies at their work site, where more than 300 OFWs participated. They were able to launch three sets of protest actions from November until December. Finally, the company was forced to listen, summoning the workers’ leaders and asked about their demands were each time they held protests.

“The company would release our ‘balances’ the following day to pacify the workers,” Costes said. “We were treated like children who are given candies so we would stop crying,” he said. “They were not really addressing our demands.”

On December 15, their third rally, Costes said he was “kidnapped” by the company’s security personnel. At around 1:00 p.m., some Kentz employees went to the workers barracks and asked Costes to go with them.

“I will not resist. I will go with you,” Costes remembered telling the Kentz employees. Outside the barracks, however, Costes was surprised that security personnel “in full battle gear” were waiting to take him.

“I thought it was my end. I was afraid,” Costes said. The plan, he said, was to hide him from other protesting Filipino workers to demoralize them from staging another rally. Security personnel had to hide Costes from one office to another, to keep him from being seen by the other workers.

Kentz, however, was wrong. The Filipino workers, Costes said, became so mad that they barricaded the compound to prevent  the company managers from entering the work place. “They (Kentz) should have never took me  hostage,” Coster said. “The emotions were high at that time. It was a good thing that no one was hurt.”

The workers say the Philippine embassy in Kenya hardly acted on their complaint against Kentz.(Photo by Janess Ann Ellao /

The following day, Kentz came out with a memorandum stipulating that 76 of the Filipinos who staged the rally would be sent home. The Filipinos, Costes said, had become a threat to the company. They were then moved to a hotel near Madagascar’s airport and told that their respective passports and tickets would be sent to them in the soonest possible time. These, however, started to arrive at their hotel only on January 8..

While waiting for their passports and tickets, Costes and the others were able to contact the Philippine embassy in Kenya, which services Madagascar, and informed officials of what they were going through. The embassy sent their staff to Kentz to supposedly investigate what the Filipinos were complaining about but the company did not let them in, making them wait instead outside the office for several hours.

“We later learned that Kentz ordered to have the barracks fixed first so that it would not look overcrowded,” Costes said. “We, however, have not heard anything from the Philippine embassy in Kenya ever since.”

Continuing struggle

Terry Ridon, chairman of the League of Filipino Students and a law intern at the University of the Philippines College of Law, said that the plight of the OFWs in Madagascar highlights the “unacceptable nature of the Philippines’s labor export policy.” Ridon, who first met the Madagascar OFWs in Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, now provides  the workers with legal assistance.

Ridon said the Philippine Embassy in Kenya should also be held accountable as they “intervened belatedly when the workers were already being repatriated to the Philippines.” He added that embassy officials “were never to be found during the height of the labor problems in the work site. They cannot now make press releases to assure the public that they did their job, when in fact they did not.”

The workers said they would soon file cases for nonpayment of overtime and breach of contract against Kentz and its local counterparts at the National Labor Relations Commission. (

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14 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Isa din ako sa kanila doon,pero tinapos ko ang kontrata ko.ang tunay na dahilan ng uwian ay dahil sa malaria.ang mali lang ng mga kasama ay over react,dapat bago sila mag decide na umuwi ay kung sila’y sure na sila ay clear sa malaria.what I mean is,pa iksamin muna para kung sakali di na madala sa pamilya ang problima.mahal ang pagpagamot ng malaria sa pinas. Pag ikaw ay nag aabroad,kailangan matibay at una sa lahat mapagmatyag sa sitwasyon. “MASARAP SA MADAGASCAR”

  2. masakit isipin sa mga oras ng kagipitan mismo ang kapwa pinoy ang lumalaglag sa kapwas pinoy.di ko rin sila masisi ika nga survival of the fittest!!! I hope all people will understand when we die no one is above us only GOD. If i would state here all my comments regarding KENTZ and EASTWEST company I can write a book with evidence :)… Ako nga pala ang anak ng namatay sa madagascar,africa. It was so HARD for us to accept what happen to our father but we need to move on and continue life. I will asking po kunting tulong sa mga taong involve dito. Especially those workers na umabot beetween january and february. I need to talk to you po regarding this case. I would suggest to limit your words online it maybe used against you. PLease email me at…. -sarah-

  3. Kabayan,wagnaman kayong magsalita na masasakit.eto lang masasabi ko nag sumama naman ang mga tao sa strike dito na 3 beses kaya lang n0ng huli na wla na sa tama ang pinaglalaban nyo.tama bay0n pgpumasok ka haharangan ka,at kng hndi ka sasama sa strike kng mgtrbho ka ay uulanin ka ng bato.pareho tayong may pamily at ibat iba ang katayoan natin mer0ng mayaman at mahirap.

  4. naku! kaloka nga dyan sa madagascar! sobra walang paki alam mga yan! infact di nmn mamatay ang worker nila pag may monthly health check up sila. ETO PA PAALALA SA MGA TAGA KENTZ! ISANG NAGNGANGALAN NG NINA ANG NAKIKIPAG RELASYON SA MGA OFW NA MAY DALANG STD TAKE NOTE KAIBIGAN KO BIKTIMA. MANAGEMENT OF KENTZ CHECK YOUR EMPLOYEES ESPECIALLY NINA.BWAHAHAHAHA

  5. jz asking lang po…? meron po akong trusted source na meron dw malaria case sa loob ng ambatovy plant. isa patay. wla kasi daw libreng vaccine or antimalarial tablet doon. gaano ba ka-risky mg-work dyan sa ambotovy knowing wlang vacine…? kakatakot po…

  6. it is so sad for me to know that one of the ofw working in kentz madagascar are now suffering from malaria & one of them died with these case.kentz management are you not aware with this matter……please send them home if you are really worried with thier situation if you really have a good heart.

  7. just asking …how about this company europacific engineering, do they treat there employees well?

  8. its so sad to think that this is happening everywhere.i am an OFW as a housekeeper and i am also experiencing such exploitation.unpaid overtime,being disrespected.althought it's not as worst as what happened to these group.i feel so sad to all my fellow OFW's.

  9. the stories are not fabricated since there are videos taken during the kidnapped part of the story… its not only a couple of times that their salaries are delayed… some workers did not received their slaries in 3 months… maybe this patricia is an employee of that said company… think this…

  10. As simple as these…there will be no dispute if there is no suffering…!!! Totoo may mga oras na di na nakakakain ng maayos ang mga manggagawa…dahil di na kayang suplayan sa pagnaubusan biscuit na lamang at pansit ang kakainin mo.Maswerte pa ang isda sa lata ng sardinas kesa sa kanila na 8 tao sa isang kwarto…bakit ko alam? dahil isa rin ako sa nagtrabaho sa Ambatovy Project….Di ako Manggagawa ng Kentz…at di East West, Omanfil o anu mang agency me koneksyon sa Kentz…..

  11. its not real that guys is talking. “These animals are more fortunate than the Filipinos who worked there.”
    how could be your animals been feed 3 times a day meal in which you can choice of a pinoy dish or a chinese dish….maybe that guy had been a bad employee to his previous employer thats why he is been hold to come back and choice kentz as another employer that can deploy him. I just cant accept that animals is more fortunate than us here…..i can still send a decent money to my family in phils. if you check this guys, they are the one that only one that doing nothing during working hours bwhahahahaha…am I right?

    1. Ang hinaing na ito ay para sa pagbabago,trato at pananaw sa aming mga OFW ang BAGONG BAYANI NG BAYAN kuno? Hindi lang nman yang pagkain ang nagiging problema if you open your eyes widely..everybody has a choice to choose but not to be treated as animal,no choice KENTZ ang naging employer but not to be treated as animal..maybe you are ANIMAL kasi you like the food they are serving & you have a choice pa if pinoy dish or chinese dish? You have receiving you salary completly but how about those our fellow filipino who has not been receiving there salary for almost 1,2 & 3 months?..kaya naman pala good sayo ang KENTZ kasi sumasahod ka ng di lumalabas din na makasarili ka! You dont have sympathy to our fellow filipino…ano ba yung magkaisa tayo at tulungan ang kapwa natin pilipino at maresolve ang problema..& thats it! tapos ang problema lahat masaya..diba Mr. Marvin Magno?

  12. Yung mga ayaw sumali sa strike, ang bansag nila hindi Filipino, balimbing, sipsip at kung ano ano pa. At ang ayaw sumali sa strike ay tinatakot nila. Binabato ang bubong kung saan nagtatrabaho. Ang ayaw sumama e tiyak daw na tatama ng bato. Sinusuyud nila lahat ng Filipino para sumama sa strike nila. Ang mga gustong magtrabaho, hinaharang nila. Ngayon, gawain ba ng isang maka demokratikong Filipino ang takutin at pilitin ang kapwa niya Filipino? Kase daw nasa democratic country sila ng Madagascar, kaya pwede mag strike. At ang ayaw sumama ay tiyak na masasaktan. Pwede ba yun? Ganun ba yun?

    1. kung ikaw ay Filipino mayroon kang awa sa mga kapwa mo Filipino..ang hirap kasi sa inyo wala kayong pakialam! nais nyo lang na ang PAMILYA nyo ang may matanggap na sahod padala nyo at may pambili na makakain,pano naman ang KAPWA nyo FILIPINO na nagtatrabaho at 3buwan n di sumasahod at galit na galit n sa inyo na WALANG PAKIALAM sa amin na tulungan na suportahan at iparating sa KENTZ management ang aming hinaing?ang nakakalungkot dito ay TAYO PANG MGA FILIPINO ay makasarili at walang pagkakaisa,Democratic tayo kaya malaya kang magpasya na nais KANG CONCERN SA AMIN! dahil yan ang PASYA MO.

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