(By Nelson S. Badilla, 22 March 2016, 11:05 pm)
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday virtually admitted that thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will be displaced.
But DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz however gave assurances that the affected OFWs from three big firms will receive their wages, including back pay, and their benefits.
The financially troubled firms are the Mohammad Al Mojil Group of Company (MMG), Saudi Oger Ltd. and the Saudi Binladen Group (SBLG).
Baldoz said Filipino labor officials headed by Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad 3rd and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Director Albert Valenciano have sought assistance from Saudi Arabian labor officials and also requested the three beleaguered firms’ officials to pay the wages and benefits of the affected OFWs.
She said the OFWs will get their exit visas (for workers whose contracts have expired) and the payment of penalties for expired work permits (Iqama).
Lagunzad and Valenciano informed Baldoz that the Mohammad Al Mojil Group of Company is expected to pay 20 percent of the OFWs’ claims before they leave and pay the remaining 80 percent through the Philippine Embassy under a special power of attorney (SPA) as previously agreed upon by the Filipino labor officials and the firm’s officials.
As for the Saudi Oger, Lagunzad and Valenciano said they got an assurance that the company will pay the OFWs’ delayed salaries, which will start by the end of March until the salaries will become current by June this year.
While waiting for the payment, the affected workers can request financial support for their daily needs, according to the two labor officials.
Saudi Oger president Farid Chaker said that some 224 OFWs will receive their salaries and end-of-service benefits by April 2016.
For the SBLG, Filipino labor officials said the affected OFWs will have to execute individual written complaints so that the company will recognize them and the Filipino labor officials based in KSA could legally refer them to Saudi Arabian labor ministry officials for proper processing of their documents and payments of their salaries and benefits.
A team from the Labor department also worked on the final exit visas of 152 OFWs from eastern KSA.
DOLE officials said 260 more OFWs recently manifested their wish to be repatriated.