DAMMAM/MANILA – Philippine recruiting agencies said they will stop sending Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia from next month if the new law on employment contracts is not abolished.
The new law, titled “unified contract”, took effect on Aug 1 and requires all employment contracts of Saudi-bound Filipinos to be routed through the Saudi National Recruitment Committee (SANARCOM). The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila said it will not issue visas to local recruitment agencies unless they provide a copy of a contract from SANARCOM.
Victor Fernandez, president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI), said if the “unified contract” will not be abolished by the Saudi Ministry of Interior, licensed recruitment agencies in the Philippines will stop recruiting Filipinos for Saudi Arabia.
“The 750-strong members of PASEI will not sign the unified contract with SANARCOM,” he said.?
Fernandez said other recruitment agencies such as the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FAME), ASPRO (agencies dealing with professionals), the Overseas Placement Association of the Philippines (OPAP) have joined PASEI in seeking abolition of the unified contract.
Fernandez said the new law is totally unfair as Filipino workers will not have the opportunity to seek help of the Philippine labor representative. It disallows services of mediators or any parties in settling disputes of Filipino workers with their employers.?
He said under the new law, employment contracts approved by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and attested by Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah will be of no value to SANARCOM.
Recruitment agencies also said Arab-owned local recruitment agencies will grab the Saudi labor market with their ties to SANARCOM.?
Lito Soriano, consultant for the recruitment industry, and Ezekiel Alunen, former board member of POEA, said many local agencies have partnered with Arabs through marriages or as business partners but most of these agencies were mere “dummies”.??Ian Rey Malagapo, an Al Khobar-based representative of a Philippine recruitment agency, said the new rule will increase costs to Saudi companies, and eventually Filipino workers will be required to shoulder the additional costs.
“If the letter from a Saudi company to a Saudi recruiting agency, and the letter of authority from the Saudi recruiting agency to a Philippine recruiting agency to recruit workers are passed through SANARCOM before being submitted at the Saudi Embassy in Manila, certainly SANARCOM will stamp the approval with another layer of fees,” Malagapo said.
This will be additional fees apart from the fee charged by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to companies recruiting Filipino workers, Malagapo said.
He said companies recruiting Filipinos pay SR.100 per visa. “The burden of the recruiting companies will be pushed on to the workers and eventually the additional costs will be added to the costs of the workers.”
The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) disclosed that there are over 400,000 job vacancies overseas and locally. The POEA also has pending job offers for 150,000 skilled workers in many Gulf countries, which have not been filled yet.
Philippine recruiting agencies fill up only about 40 percent of their total job orders due to the lack of skilled workers and insufficient training programs.