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Saudi-Lankan MoU on domestic workers expected

Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) early next month for the protection of domestic workers from the island nation in the Kingdom.
An official from the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry told Arab News that the decision to sign the agreement was taken last week during the visit of Ziyad Al-Sayigh, deputy minister for customer services and labor relations, to Sri Lanka during the two-day Asia-Gulf States Regional Dialogue on standard terms of employment for migrant domestic workers held in the Sri Lankan capital.
Al-Sayigh held discussions with Sri Lankan labor officials on the sidelines of the meeting.
The dialogue, sponsored by UN Women and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, was attended by representatives from 20 countries including Middle East nations.
The proposed agreement includes provisions that stipulate that contracts should be in a language that is understood by the worker and that the worker must be informed of what to do and whom to turn to in case of an emergency.
The worker also must be made aware of the facilities available to him or her in the country of destination, especially when it comes to health and personal safety and the employer must agree to terminate the service contract after a maximum of two years if the employee wishes to leave his or her place of employment. In addition, the employee has the right to retain all his or her travel documents at all times.
Addressing the dialogue, Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris said efforts to work on standard terms for employment was a vital necessity, and its adoption would solve close to 90 percent of the problems faced by workers. A rights-based approach should be an important and essential feature in the dialogue, he said.
The meeting took up a unified contract to protect the rights of women migrant domestic workers, a category particularly vulnerable to various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse, which was the main focus of the meeting.
Peiris highlighted the immense role played by Sri Lankan migrant workers in contributing to the economic growth of host states. He noted that the vibrancy of the Sri Lankan economy was due to the invaluable service that migrant labor played with remittance inflows amounting to some $7 billion that surpassed all export earnings from commodities such as garments, tea and rubber.
The minister underscored the commitment of Sri Lanka on working together to find collective solutions to a number of issues and challenges confronting migrant workers.

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