82 stranded OFWs set to come home from Saudi
MANILA, Philippines – A total of 82 stranded overseas Filipino workers from Saudi Arabia will be repatriated by October, Vice President Jejomar Binay said.
In a press statement, Binay said the Philippine Labor Attache in Riyadh has secured a commitment from the OFWs’ employer, Al Swayeh Company, that the workers will be repatriated within October.
“Mr. Abdulrahman al Rajhi, the owner of the Al Swayeh Company, has promised Saudi Assistant Minister of Labor Hamad al Hodaithi that he will grant exit clearances to all the OFWs by next month,” Binay said.
The 82 OFWs are temporarily staying at the shelter house of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) - the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Riyadh.
Binay said the OFWs have all completed their respective contracts, with 10 currently awaiting their exit visas.
He said the OFWs refused to renew their contracts with their company due to various labor violations, including unpaid wages, alleged maltreatment, and abuse.
According to POLO-Riyadh, the labor problems of the construction company started when it was bought by al Rajhi in 2007. Aside from Filipinos, Al Swayeh also employed more than 2,000 workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, lndia, Pakistan, and Egypt.
The Saudi Ministry of Labor said Al Swayeh could no longer pay the cost of the OFWs' plane tickets because it gave priority to the payment of the workers' unpaid salary and end-of-service benefits.
“Our officials in POLO-Riyadh were informed that the company will work out the issuance of the exit visas of the OFWs as long as the workers can present a confirmed flight booking to the Philippines,” Binay said.
Binay added that Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has already instructed Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to coordinate with the workers' recruitment agencies to provide tickets to their deployed workers, and with OWWA to provide the plane tickets for the workers whose agencies have closed which will be reimbursed at a later time.
He also revealed that the Office of the Vice President has requested the POEA and the Presidential Taskforce Against Illegal Recruitment (PTFAIR) to look into whether the OFWs were victims of illegal recruitment.
“We have received reports that the agencies that recruited these OFWs were engaging in illegal practices including overcharging of placement fees, contract substitution, collection of fees without official receipts, and illegal salary deductions,” he said.
Binay is the concurrent chairman of the PTFAIR.