The Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – may no longer accept Filipino workers unless the Philippine government take steps to clarify its policy imposing $13 daily penalty on foreign employers who would not pay their workers on time and at a minimum of $400 a month.
The Committee for Importing Foreign Workers of the Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC) unanimously agreed in a meeting on Thursday to stop importing Filipinos until Philippine labor laws are clarified, Dylan Bowman of Kuwait New Agency reported.
GCC, also known as the Cooperation Council of the Arab States in the Gulf, is a trade bloc involving six Arab Gulf states with many economic and social objectives, including the formulation of similar regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, and administration.
The report acknowledged that the Philippine government raised the minimum salary of its workers overseas was intended to improve the standard of living of its citizens.
“Participants agreed to submit this recommendation [to stop importing Filipinos] to the decision-makers in the GCC and expressed hope that this recommendation would be implemented as soon as possible," Abdel-Aziz Al-Ali, head of Kuwait's domestic labor offices, told the Kuwait News Agency.
“We understand the important international implications of this issue and we are dealing with it accordingly," Al-Ali said.
Based on POEA data, the six GCC member-states employ 435, 190 Filipinos as of December-2006, and this is broken down into: Saudi Arabia – 223, 459; UAE – 99, 212; Kuwait – 47, 917; Qatar – 45, 795; Bahrain – 11, 736; and Oman – 7, 071.
The new regulations issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) partially took effect on December 15, 2006, was fully implemented beginning March 1, 2007 pegged the minimum salary for Filipino domestic workers, including stay-in care givers, at $400, up from $200.
Foreign employers are also required to sign a declaration stipulating they would pay a fine of around $13 a day if they do not pay their Filipino workers on time, and at the prescribed rate spelled out in the labor contract.
The minimum salary regulations are not binding on any of the GCC’s six member states, but if employers do not agree to them then the Filipino government will not process their staff’s contracts, Kuwait News Agency said.
Asaad Derbas, head of the Kuwaiti delegation to the meeting of the GCC Committee, said the decision to stop importing Filipinos was taken because the Philippine government “used the issue as a political tool in its recent general election."
He said the issue had a negative impact on the countries importing Filipino workers.