Philippines, Pakistani officials discuss issues of workers in Saudi Arabia

Workers of mainly two companies - Saudi Oger and Saad Contracting Company - were among the most affected

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Pakistan’s Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Pir Syed Sadaruddin Shah Rashidi had a detailed meeting with the Saudi Labor Minister Mufrej Al-Haqbani in Riyadh Wednesday and discussed the issue of stranded Pakistani workers in the Kingdom.

Manzoor ul Haq, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Habibur Rehman Gillani, managing director of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, accompanied the minister.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Ambassador Haq said the two parties discussed the issues related to the workers’ problems thoroughly.

“Workers’ unpaid salary, health, provision of food, renewal of iqama (resident card) and transfer of sponsorship were all discussed in detail,” he said.

The ambassador pointed out that workers of mainly two companies — Saudi Oger and Saad Contracting Company — were among the most affected.

Asked about the number of stranded Pakistani workers, he said: “It is difficult to give an exact figure, but we are talking about 8,000 to 10,000 workers,” adding that: “It is a fluid figure that keeps changing as some people leave as and when they get an opportunity.”

Filipino and Saudi officials are working together to help thousands of stranded workers under a directive from King Salman, a diplomat said on Wednesday as the Philippines labour secretary visited. The roughly 11,000 Filipinos are among tens of thousands of workers affected by financial troubles at the kingdom’s major construction firms.

“Their salaries have not been paid, some of them for as long as eight months,” Iric Arribas, charge d’affaires at the Philippine embassy, told AFP.

“It turned into a humanitarian crisis.” Workers were unable to renew their residency permits, meaning they could not leave the country and could not access their bank accounts, he said.

Some living in company accommodation “did not have food”, Arribas added.

About 7,000 of the Filipinos worked for Saudi Oger Ltd, while 3,000 were with Saudi Binladin Group and the rest with other firms, Arribas said. Saudi King Salman earlier this month ordered various measures to help affected foreign workers.

These include a waiver of penalties for expired work and residency permits, payment for flights home, and for food and accommodation when the employers were no longer meeting their obligations.
(With the Saudi Gazette and AFP)

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