1,000 OFWs repatriated from Saudi Arabia before hajj –Bello
The government is on track with its repatriation efforts involving thousands of OFWs who were stranded in Saudi Arabia after they were laid off by their companies due to the slump in oil prices, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Tuesday.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Bello said there would be some 1,000 who would be repatriated by September 9, the start of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and another 1,000 by the end of month.
"I think we can do that because right now, we have already repatriated 620 and tomorrow, we will have another [batch]. Tuloy-tuloy ang repatriation ng mga overseas workers natin," he said.
"This will substantially reduce the number of overseas workers to be repatriated," Bello added.
The airfares of the repatriates have been provided by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who also offered to provide new employment opportunities to foreign workers displaced by the oil crisis.
Bello said there would be "stricter monitoring of these employment opportunities that are being offered to our OFWs."
Legal assistance by the Saudi government will also be provided to help settle salary and benefits disputes, he said.
"That is now in process," Bello said. "Fortunately, the King of Saudi Arabia instructed the Minister of Labor of Saudi Arabia to provide our OFWs legal assistance also so walang mga [aberya]."
Bello added that DOLE already won a labor case involving 50 million in Riyals in Al Khobar but did not elaborate on the specifics of the case.
An order from the king was also extended to Saudi Oger, Saudi Binladen, and Mohammad Al-Mojil Group (MMG) to "pay the claims of our overseas workers."
"Kaya very confident kami na yung sweldo, unpaid salaries of our overseas workers, will be satisfied and this will include yung payment ng kanilang end of services," Bello said.
Meanwhile, OFWs may call the Department of Labor and Employment's new 24/7 hotline which will address questions about "local and overseas employment opportunities, employees' rights and benefits, working conditions, wages, labor relations, and post-employment opportunities."
All fees from long-distance calls will be paid for by DOLE. —KBK, GMA News