Troubled Saudi firms vow to pay OFWs’ back wages

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Thousands of Filipino workers in two of three financially troubled firms in Saudi Arabia will start receiving their back wages and benefits following negotiations with the company owners by a special mission sent by the Department of Labor and Employment to the Middle East early this month.


In a press briefing Monday, March 21, Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III said the government was able to strike a compromise with the three firms, which will soon effect the issuance of exit visas to the Filipino workers with expired visas and the payment of the penalties for their expired work permits.

The three firms were identified as Mohammad Al Mojil Group of Companies (MMG), Saudi Oger Ltd. and Saudi Binladen Gruop (SBLG).

Lagunzad and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Director Albert Valenciano went on a five-day mission to Riyadh, Al-Khobar and Jeddah, where the three companies are located, on March 7 on instructions of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

“We were able to negotiate a planned payment of wages specifically by Saudi Oger and we reaffirmed an earlier agreement with MMG and some initiatives and agreements with SBLG,” said Lagunzad, head of the special mission.

The labor official said Saudi Oger committed to start paying this month its more than 7,000 Filipino workers their delayed salaries for three to five months and also promised the salaries would be current by June 2016.

“We were also assured by the company that they will pay all the penalties for expired work permits [of 3,180 workers] and that this problem will be solved by April 2016,” he said, adding that the firm also promised to pay the salaries and benefits of more than 200 workers returning to the Philippines.


Pay through embassy

As for MMG, it was agreed the company will initially pay its Filipino workers 20 percent of their back wages and benefits before they return home and the remaining 80 percent will be paid through the Philippine Embassy under a special power of attorney, said Lagunzad.

He said the labor agency was also able to secure the commitment of SBLG to pay the workers their back wages and assist those who want to transfer to other companies in claiming their work permits.

“We recommended that concerned POLOs in Saudi Arabia continue to monitor the implementation of the agreements and if they are not successfully implemented, the POLOs should assist Filipino workers in the formal filing of complaints with the respective Saudi labor offices,” he added.