Claiming it has not been officially informed on the matter, the Philippine Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sought a meeting with KSA labor officials regarding the decision to stop issuing work visas for domestic workers from the Philippines. The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said it learned about the KSA ban through the print media.
“As of 1 July, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has not received any official notice on the matter from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Labor. The Embassy has sought a meeting with Saudi officials to confirm the parameters of this pronounced policy by the Ministry of Labor Spokesperson Mr. Hattab Al Anzi,” the Embassy said in a statement posted on its website Saturday evening.
It added it has also received questions on whether the new policy would negatively affect Filipino domestic workers already working and whose iqamas (work permits) are subject for renewal or are going on vacation and would return. “The Philippine Embassy shall seek proper clarification on this issue from the Ministry of Labor,” it said.
Last Wednesday, Saudi news site Arab News reported Saudi Arabia may stop hiring Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers as it cited strict requirements and supposedly unfair regulatory provisions. Hattab Bin Saleh Al-Anzi, a spokesman of the Ministry of Labor said the ministry may stop the issuance of work visas starting July 2. “The Ministry of Labor will stop issuing work visas for domestic workers for the Philippine and Indonesia from Saturday (July 2),” Al-Anzi said.
Processing of HSW contracts suspended since March
The Embassy said the processing, verification and authentication of contracts of household service workers (HSW) have been suspended since March 2011, following an instruction from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pending mutual agreement on the requirements for verification and terms and conditions of the contracts. A Philippine–Saudi joint technical committee met in Manila on April 24 to 27, with the Saudi delegation headed by Assistant Deputy Minister of Labor Hashim Rajeh. After the April meeting, the Philippine side agreed to waive requiring the KSA employer’s personal appearance as well as submission of a police clearance, certificate of employment, vicinity map or sketch of the employer’s residence and names of the members of the employer’s family.
On the other hand, the Saudi delegation agreed that Saudi employers would hire Filipino domestic helpers through licensed Saudi manpower agencies to be pre-qualified by the labor section of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.
The Embassy said the remaining issue to be resolved is the minimum salary. The Saudi side proposed reducing the minimum salary to $240 dollars per month but the Philippines stood pat on $400. It said the $400 rate “was set way back in 2006 applicable to all countries hiring Filipino domestic workers.”
“The Philippine Department of Labor through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), which supervises and regulates the deployment of Filipino workers overseas, decided to maintain the monthly salary at the current level,” the Embassy said. It added that before the reported decision of the Ministry of Labor to stop issuing visas for domestic helpers from the Philippines, the Embassy proposed talks should resume in order to discuss further the remaining issue on the minimum salary.
“The Philippine Embassy stresses that the requirements for labor contract verification and the terms and conditions of the contract including the $400 minimum salary are not new as suggested by some news reports. These requirements are part of the HSW Reform Package introduced in December 2006 by the POEA, which have been implemented since 2007 for deployment of HSWs worldwide,” it said.