Oil crisis to affect 50,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia by March –group
At least 50,000 Filipino workers in the industrial sectors in Saudi Arabia will be affected by the present oil crisis in the Middle East by March, according to pro-migrant group Migrante on Wednesday.
Primarily affected are workers of Saudi Oger Ltd. and Bin Laden Co., two of the biggest contractors hired by the Saudi government for construction and industrial projects.
At a press briefing in Quezon City, Migrante chairman Garry Martinez said the figure is based on their "initial study" using information shared by their coordinators in Saudi Arabia.
"Libu-libo po sa ating mga kababayan na ang tambay o hindi na pinasasahod at sila po ay nag-aantay na lamang kung sila ay ire-repatriate or sila ay ma-expire na lang 'yung tinatawag nilang working permit or iqama," he said.
At Saudi Oger Ltd., Martinez said, some 20,000 Filipino workers have been put on floating status or have their wages withheld for six months.
Migrante presented an internal memo dated November 2015 by construction conglomerate Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) regarding the third batch of workers that would be retrenched.
Rodel Perciana, formerly an electric foreman with Walid Al-Samman Company, said SBG aims to release 15,000 workers as part of its workforce reduction plan.
"Kaya nalaman ko rin po 'yung kalagayan ng mga Binladin, mga Binladin OFW, kasi malapit lang po ako doon. 'Yun nga po ang problema, wala nga silang trabaho, stop po na talaga," Perciana said.
Walid Al-Samman Company is a subcontractor of SBG.
Some OFWs have filed labor cases to receive their end-of-work benefits and back pay and have asked for assistance from the Philippine government.
"Yung DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) may kapangyarihan 'yan doon sa mabigyan ng tulong ang ating mga kabababayan. Dun muna tayo mag-resolba," Martinez said.
OFWs have also launched labor cases with subcontractors purportedly affected by the cut, including Al-Aman Contracting (30 OFWs); Drake & Skull (15); Rabya Contracting (10); Al-Omari (12); MRF (15); Arab Tec (1,000); Kabbani (2); and Alrashid Abetong in Riyadh (300).
In a report submitted to DOLE earlier this week, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah said it is anticipating SBG's plan to retrench 15,000 out of its 200,000 workers in the entire Saudi Arabia.
Migrante-Saudi spokesperson Gilbert Saludo stated in a Skype call during the briefing that the lower cost of crude oil per barrel is drying up work in sectors tapped by the government due to its reliance on oil.
Though neither Martinez nor Perciana definitively marked the oil crisis in the Middle East as the main reason for the retrenchments, both agreed that Saudization — or the policy to fill up the Kingdom's workforce with Saudi nationals — is another reason for the layoffs.
Martinez, Migrante's first nominee, said the government shouldn't wait for data to act on what he claims is a dire situation.
"We're not talking about maraming numbers. Ito pa lang malinaw na. Ano ba ang pamantayan ng gobyerno ng krisis? Aabutin ba nila yung tent city ulit?" he said.
Undocumented workers in Saudi Arabia camped outside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah in 2013 following the Saudi government's crackdown on undocumented workers. —KBK, GMA News