Unpaid wages OFWs’ biggest problem

Written by Joe Avancena

Retrieved from Arab News DAMMAM – Not receiving their salaries is the number one problem faced by Filipino workers here in the Kingdom, according to a Philippine Embassy labor official.

“Unpaid salary is the major problem encountered by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in this country; in Eastern Province alone, 20 percent of all the labor cases handled by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) last year were related to unpaid salaries,” said Philippine Labor Attaché David Des T. Dicang, addressing recently a forum of Filipino community leaders.

In 2009, POLO operation in the Eastern Province handled 4,560 various labor-related cases confronting Filipino workers. Of these cases, 916 were related to unpaid salaries, Dicang said. “This problem of unpaid salary, or delayed salary, has far-reaching effect to our workers and on their families back home because it distresses both the workers and their immediate relatives,” the labor official said.

He said the problem of unpaid salary greatly affects the performance of the concerned workers and often results in workers abandoning their jobs. “The Philippine labor office in the Kingdom often traces work abandonment due to unpaid wages,” he pointed out.

Other problems commonly faced by Filipino workers are work contract violations (such as contract substitution), maltreatment, poor working and living condition, health and medical problem, immigration and document-related problem, and settlement of end-of-service benefits.

Non-labor related cases are also increasing, according to Dicang. In his report to the community, Dicang revealed that sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape cases topped the non-related cases handled by the POLO. In the Eastern Province, the POLO operation in the region handled 67 such cases in 2009.

According to Dicang, the resolution of unpaid salary cases faced many hurdles especially if the companies or the establishments faced bankruptcy or insolvency. “The process of getting the workers paid is often tedious and long; there are cases when workers would just prefer to be repatriated back home, or seek release from the employer just to end their suffering,” Dicang explained.

In 2009, the amount of money reinstituted to OFW claimants of unpaid salaries in the Eastern Province amounted to SR1,150 million (about $306,680). This amount represented a small percentage of the actual money due to claimants of unpaid salaries, Dicang said. – SG

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