Historic deal follows years of disputes over treatment of unskilled expat workers in Gulf kingdom
Saudi Arabia and the Philippines have signed an historic bilateral agreement covering the employment of Filipino maids in the kingdom, following years of disputes.
It is the first such agreement signed by the Saudi Ministry of Labour with a labour-exporting market after the kingdom recently refused a similar draft deal with Indonesia.
Several source labour markets, including Sri Lanka, Kenya and Indonesia, have banned their female citizens from working in Saudi Arabia amid consistent claims of financial, physical and emotional abuse.
The kingdom has retaliated by denying work permits to household workers from some countries.
Human rights groups also have raised concerns about the treatment of foreign workers.
They estimate about 45 foreign maids are on death row in Saudi Arabia. In January, a 24-year old Sri Lankan housemaid was beheaded for allegedly killing a child left in her care in 2005.
Filipino maids had only returned to Saudi Arabia in the second half of last year after the kingdom agreed to set a $400 minimum monthly salary.
The new labour agreement is expected to immediately benefit 60,000 Filipino workers including babysitters, cleaners, family drivers, cooks and gardeners, according to a statement in state media Saudi Press Agency.
It outlines the recruitment and employment obligations as well as legal avenues in the event of a dispute.
The workers will be given weekly rest days and daily rest periods, paid vacation leave and free communication, while employers must treat them humanely.
“The agreement is historic and today is a very significant day in Philippine-Saudi bilateral relations,” Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz was quoted as saying.
“This agreement heralds an era of stronger bilateral labour cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the protection and welfare of Filipino HSWs in the Kingdom.”