By Leslie Ann Aquino
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III will be meeting with the officials of the Ministry of Labor of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to discuss the repatriation and the payment of the back wages of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the lock-out by their employer, Azmeel Contracting Corporation.
“I will talk with the Minister of Labor of Saudi Arabia on the repatriation of our OFWs and the request for the Saudi government’s assistance to look for jobs elsewhere, as well as legal assistance to collect their monetary claims from their employer,” he said in a statement.
The labor chief expressed confidence that that the Ministry of Labor will allow OFWs who wish to continue working in KSA, to transfer to other companies, since according to a report, the OFWs did not participate in the protest rally initiated by workers who are nationals of other countries.
For those who would wish to be repatriated, Bello said that prior to their return, a team composed of OWWA and DSWD will extend counseling and debriefing to the distressed OFWs, while members from DOH will help in providing relief and medical assistance.
“I am hoping that those who will be repatriated will be able to join their families this coming holiday season. OWWA, the Bureau of Local Employment and the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns will provide livelihood assistance for them upon their return,” Bello added.
The Labor Secretary flew to Al Khobar with Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac and officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Department of Health (DOH) to assist some 1,470 OFWs displaced by the lock-out.
Based on a report received by OWWA, Bello said Azmeel Contracting excluded its employees from their place of work after its assets were frozen by the Saudi government. The report also said that prior to the lockout, the employer failed to pay the workers’ four months salaries, which prompted workers to stage a protest.
Bello said at least $50,000 was already sent as financial assistance to the affected OFWs.