Gov't eyes shouldering unpaid wages of retrenched OFWs in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The government is mulling shouldering temporarily the unpaid wages and end of service benefits of OFWs who lost their jobs due to the oil crisis in Saudi Arabia.
Interviewed during President Rodrigo Duterte's visit here, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said an augmentation team he deployed to the Kingdom is currently looking for ways to validate the claims of unpaid wages of the OFWs.
Once validated, he said, the government can start handing out advance payments to the affected Filipino workers.
A drop in global oil prices by about half since 2014 created a Saudi budget deficit of $79 billion last year, with billions owed by the government to private firms it had contracted, chiefly in the construction sector.
Some 11,000 OFWs in oil-rich Saudi Arabia were retrenched last year following the downsizing of big companies hit by the oil crisis. Many of these workers said they did not receive their salaries for months or their end of service benefits.
The Philippine government had earlier given these OFWs P20,000 and their families P6,000 in cash assistance, as well as medicine and food packs.
Saudi officials have taken legal action on behalf of the unpaid employees from the Philippines and other Asian countries in an effort to recover their wages, even if the workers have returned to their homelands.
Duterte was in Saudi Arabia for a three-day state visit, after which he will fly to Bahrain and then to Qatar. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News