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Call for visa ban on Filipino workers in pay row

Manama, May 31, 2007

Gulf manpower recruiters will urge their governments to stop issuing work visas to Filipinos until a dispute over domestic workers' wages is resolved, a report said.

A meeting of the GCC Recruiters Committee unanimously agreed in Bahrain to submit the request for the ban until conditions set by the Philippines government are revised, said the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.

The new regulations seek a minimum wage of $400 (BD150) and improved standard of living for any Filipino worker being employed as domestic help in the GCC.

The minimum wage was passed in December last year and maids planning to go overseas must first undergo familiarisation training with the culture, beliefs and practices of their prospective employers.

Employers of Filipino maids are also now being required to sign a declaration that they will face a BD5 fine everyday if they fail to pay workers their salaries on time.

"We have approved a decision that we will urge our governments through the GCC chambers of commerce to stop issuing working visas to all Filipino workers," Bahrain Recruiters Society (BRS) chairman Fareed Al Mahmeed said.

He was speaking following the meeting held at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Manama, yesterday (May 31).

Representatives from all the GCC countries participated in the meeting.

"As a recruiters committee we will ask the GCC countries to stop Filipinos' visas," said Al Mahmeed. "We hope our governments will support us. It is affecting our citizens, it is affecting business and it is interfering in these country's policies and rules."

He said that he hoped the decision would give GCC governments an opportunity to speak with their Filipino counterparts and reach a compromise, and claimed the committee's actions would have the backing of Filipinos.

"The rules are affecting the Filipino workers and according to our agent even the workers are refusing the regulations and are going on strike because nobody is taking manpower from the Philippines anymore," said Al Mahmeed.

BRS board secretary Khalifa Al Jowder said that the meeting addressed means of dealing with enforcing $400 minimum wage rule on the sector.

"We have always tried to solve this problem but this has not been solved," he said.

"All GCC representatives agreed to ask our government to suspend visas and work permits for all skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers from the Philippines until we see what the solution will be."

"No-one is going to accept paying a salary of $400 - we will not bring workers from the Philippines to any GCC countries until we get a solution to this problem."

However, Philippine Ambassador Eduardo Maglaya said any such ban would be open to accusations of discrimination. "If it is specific that they mention only Filipinos then I think that it is discriminatory," he said.

"Filipinos are the preferred employees in the service industry and we have reasons why we should also take care of our nationals.

"I guess what every normal embassy would do is protect their own nationals in the same manner as the GCC embassies would do for their citizens abroad."

In Bahrain, maids account for 40 per cent of the total Filipino population. The embassy had estimated that there are about 40,000 Filipinos in Bahrain.

Last year the embassy handled 4,978 cases of Filipinos with employment problems - 95pc of which involved maids.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Filipinos | maids | minimum wage |

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