KSA, Philippines sign watershed labor pact

Updated 21 May 2013

KSA, Philippines sign watershed labor pact

RIYADH/JEDDAH: Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani signed a labor agreement Sunday on the hiring of Filipino household service workers (HSWs). Al-Haqbani signed on behalf of Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.
“The agreement is historic and today is a very significant day in Philippine-Saudi bilateral relations,” said Baldoz. The agreement is the first by the Saudi Ministry of Labor with a manpower-supplying country.
“This agreement heralds an era of stronger bilateral labor cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the protection and welfare of Filipino HSWs in the Kingdom,” she said.
The agreement comes after Saudi Arabia and the Philippines agreed on a standard labor contract last year, which shall govern the employment of HSWs in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the agreement is for five years and can be extended automatically for similar periods. It will also incorporate the formation of a joint working group to meet on a regular basis to discuss and resolve the problems of HSWs who include housemaids, baby sitters, laundrywomen, family drivers, cooks and gardeners.
“We expect that 60,000 out of an estimated 670,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia will immediately benefit from this agreement, which lays down areas of cooperation between the two countries,” Baldoz said.
The agreement includes the following:
1. A mutually acceptable recruitment and deployment system;
2. The recruitment of domestic workers through agencies that practice ethical recruitment and are licensed by their respective governments;
3. Prohibition of charging or deducting any cost attendant to recruitment and deployment from the worker's salary;
4. The right of recourse to authorities in case of contractual disputes in accordance with applicable laws and regulations;
5. Legal measures against recruitment offices, companies or agencies for any violation of applicable laws, rules and regulations; and
6. Resolution of any issue arising from the implementation and enforcement of the agreement.
The agreement stipulates that an HSW receives a minimum monthly salary of SR 1,500, weekly rest days and daily rest periods, paid vacation leave, non-withholding of passports and work permits, free communication and humane treatment.
The agreement establishes specific responsibilities of the Kingdom and the Philippines.
For Saudi Arabia, these include:
• authenticity of the employment contract,
• opening of a bank account in the name of the domestic worker,
• a 24-hour mechanism for domestic workers' assistance,
• expeditious settlement of labor contract violation cases, and
• facilitation of exit visas for repatriation upon contract completion or during emergency situations.
For the Philippines, its specific responsibilities include ensuring that workers are qualified and medically fit, with no derogatory record and verification of all employment contracts submitted by Saudi recruitment offices.
Baldoz said the Philippines is willing to organize and host the first meeting of the Joint Committee in Manila and invited Fakeih to attend it. She thanked Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago, Consul General Uriel Norman Garibay and the staff at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah for their support.
Baldoz also expressed appreciation for the Saudi leniency for undocumented OFWs. She urged them to take advantage of the guidelines and immediately rectify their status in the Kingdom for their welfare, benefit and interest. “I warmly welcome the guidelines and express my gratitude to the Saudi government for its timely issuance,” she said.
She noted that the circular entitled “Procedures and exemptions for grace period to rectify status” issued on May 10 applies to all OFWs whose continued stay in Saudi Arabia is deemed illegal and provides them with two options to legalize their stay. The options are either returning to the Philippines or staying and transferring residency to a new employer. The guidelines will take effect until July 3 when the grace period for undocumented OFWs to rectify their status expires.
She added that for undocumented OFWs who have expressed a desire to go home, the Saudi government has exempted them under the guidelines from payment of all residency permit charges and working permit penalties. However, she said that those who have not been fingerprinted before need to have their fingerprints taken and secure exit clearance from the Saudi Passports Department.
Labor Attachés Alejandro Padaen and Adam A. Musa informed Baldoz that there are about 10,000 undocumented OFWs — 3,500 in Riyadh and 6,500 in Jeddah — who have been registered and profiled since the campaign against illegal workers intensified.
They told Baldoz that about 43 percent of undocumented OFWs camping out near the Philippine Consulate wanted to go home, while 57 percent have expressed desire to stay.

Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

Updated 26 June 2019

Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

  • 40 works by Edvard Munch go on display for first time in Middle East

DHAHRAN: A dynamic Saudi cultural center is to showcase the works of one of the world’s most famous painters in an exhibition-first for the Middle East.

Forty pieces by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, best known for his iconic “The Scream” painting, will go on public display at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

The special exhibition, titled “Landscapes of the Soul,” is the latest in a series of high-profile cultural events to be staged at the showpiece exhibition in Dhahran.

Developed by Saudi Aramco with the aim of stimulating knowledge, creativity and cross-cultural engagement, Ithra’s theater, museum, exhibition hall and art gallery complex forms a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan to promote culture and entertainment.

The Munch exhibition, which runs until Sept. 3, portrays the artist’s personal life experiences of misery, love, despair, loneliness and reflections of the soul, through his distinctive works.

“It is such an honor to host and introduce to Saudi Arabia, and indeed, the Middle East, the work of the world-renowned artist Edvard Munch,” Rania Biltagi, Ithra’s head of communications and partnership, told Arab News.

Munch’s (1863-1944) original exhibition has been located in Oslo, Norway since 1963, and the Saudi display is being staged in Ithra’s Great Hall in partnership with the Munch Museum in Norway.

As well as a lithograph version of his most famous painting “The Scream,” other works on show will include “Summer Night. The Voice,” 1894, “Self-Portrait,” 1895, and “The Sick Child,” 1896.

“A moment that stood out from the opening was when speaking to a couple visiting the exhibit, they mentioned that they were Norwegian and working in Saudi,” Biltagi said. “They explained that they had never had the chance to visit the Munch Museum in their homeland and what an unexpected pleasure it was to be able to see Munch’s work in Saudi.”

Biltagi added that the event epitomized the aim of Ithra in providing a platform to bring together cultures as well as people.

The center, featured in Time magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 places to visit, is a pioneer on the Kingdom’s culture and arts scene, organizing a variety of events, performances, programs and experiences to suit all ages and backgrounds. Previous exhibitions have included a focus on Saudi contemporary art, Leonardo da Vinci, and installations symbolizing creativity and innovation.