Saudi Arabia to pay Filipino workers owed wages

RIYADH (AFP): Saudi Arabia will compensate 10,000 Filipino workers who lost their jobs in the Gulf country years ago and are still waiting for their salaries, Philippine officials said.

The announcement came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos met Friday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Bangkok.

Philippine Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said the compensation package of two billion riyals ($532 million) would “help our displaced workers”.

It was unclear if unpaid workers from other countries would also receive some of the money.

“This is very good news. He (Prince Mohammed) told me this is their gift to us,” Marcos said late Friday.

Saudi Arabia plunged into economic crisis in 2015 following a sharp decline on oil prices, leading construction companies to lay off tens of thousands of foreign workers.

Saudi officials took legal action on behalf of unpaid employees from the Philippines and other Asian countries in an effort to recover their wages.

“I’m pretty sure that this gesture will somehow give them hope and will make up for so many years of anguish and disappointment,” Ople told AFP.

AFP was unable to reach the Saudi embassy in Manila for comment.

The Philippines earlier this month resumed the deployment of domestic workers to Saudi Arabia following a year-long ban.

Manila had stopped sending of household workers to the kingdom — a popular destination for Filipinos working abroad — after reports emerged of abuse and unpaid wages.

Both countries have agreed to boost protective measures for migrants.

Among other things, workers will be allowed to quit before the end of their contracts if their employer is abusive, and insurance coverage will be provided for unpaid wages.

More than 700,000 Filipinos work in the kingdom, most of whom are domestic and construction workers, according to latest official data.

Millions of Filipinos work abroad due to low wages or lack of jobs in their own country of 110 million people.

The money they send back to their families helps prop up the economy.