An international chapter of a group advocating the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Wednesday said about 50,000 Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia would be affected by the energy crisis in the Middle East by March.
In its initial study, Migrante-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said workers of Saudi Oger Ltd. and Bin Laden Co., two of the biggest contractors hired by the Saudi government for construction and industrial projects, would be primarily affected by the crisis.
Migrante said at least 5,000 OFWs would be retrenched by Bin Laden Co. come March “in light of the mass layoffs and austerity measures being employed by the Saudi government.”
Citing an internal memo “confidentially acquired” by the group, Migrante said Bin Laden Co. ordered the “third batch of reduction in labor force targeting up to 15,000 lesser employees.”
“A big crisis is in our midst, even as the Philippine government attempts to downplay it. Since October last year, our OFWs in these two biggest companies have either been ‘idled,’ their iqamas (work permits) not renewed, their wages withheld for as long as six months or their work hours lessened. Nakatambay na po ang mga OFW natin sa Saudi. Tinetengga na lamang ang mga gustong umuwi o magpa-repatriate hanggang sa mapaso ang kanilang exit visa,” said Migrante party-list first nominee Garry Martinez.
Highlighting the economic letdown’s effect to OFWs, Martinez said thousands of Filipino workers abroad were becoming stagnant in construction and industrial camps as they awaited the resolution of the labor cases they filed against their companies.
Martinez added that there had been reported riots and violence in labor camps due to withheld wages.
“They filed cases for nonpayment of wages and other labor violations. The very least the Philippine government should do is to ensure that they be paid their dues and be given their end-of service benefits bago man lang sila mapauwi. What is our government doing about thousands of OFWs with pending labor cases there?” he said.
“The shrinking labor markets in Saudi and the Middle East will also inevitably cause stricter immigration measures that may endanger the lives of welfare of our OFWs,” he added.
Aside from Saudi Oger Ltd. and Bin Laden Co., Migrante said it was also facilitating labor cases in smaller companies, namely Al-Aman Contracting (30 OFWs); Drake & Scull (15), Rabya Contracting (10); Al-Omari (12); MRF (15); Arab Tec (1,000); Kabbani (2); and Alrashid Abetong (300). RC