The mandate of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office headed by the Labor Attache, including the OWWA officer assigned to Saudi Arabia, includes the following:
- Employment Promotion
- Workers Protection
- Community Networking
- Issuance of Overseas Employment Certificate (required for returning OFWs)
Document Verification – An important service provided by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office(POLO) is the verification of employment documents submitted by prospective Saudi employers hiring Filipino workers. Under guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), employment-related documents have to be verified by the Labor Attaché or his duly authorized representative before the same documents are submitted to POEA for registration/processing.
The verification of documents is required to ensure that Filipino workers are covered with work contracts that comply with terms and standards of the POEA. For this purpose, the processing of documents of employers with complaints filed by workers is suspended until the complaints are resolved.
In the case of the hiring of household service workers (HSWs), the verification of contracts was suspended effective 13 March 2011 upon request of the Saudi government. Talks are on-going between the Saudi and Philippine governments for the resumption of contract verification.
Mediation/Conciliation – POLO-OWWA Riyadh provides mediation/conciliation services in settling the problems of workers with employers amicably. This is done before the complaint is filed with the Saudi Labor Office. This initial step consists of (a) counseling the worker on options available to him/her, (b) calling the employer to discuss the worker’s complaint, (c) writing the employer to respond to the worker’s complaint and (d) when needed, visiting the employer to discuss the worker’s complaint and to find a solution that is acceptable to both the parties.
In the case of HSWs who are not covered by the Saudi Labor Law, their complaints are filed with the Office of the Governor for appropriate action.
Handling of Requests for Assistance – In addition to the actual cases handled by case officers and welfare officers, the office also attends to requests for assistance (RAs) from various offices in Manila such as the POEA, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Office of the Undersecretary of Migrant Workers’ Affairs/Philippine Embassy. The RAs range from non-payment of salary/delayed payment, maltreatment, sexual harassment, unfavorable working/living conditions to non-issuance of iqama (residence permit) or exit visa.
Shelter Provision – The POLO manages the daily operation of the Filipino Workers’ Resource Center (FWRC) under the supervision of the Chief of Mission. The POLO adheres to admission policies to regulate the admission and stay of runaway HSWs at the shelter.
- The shelter admits female Household Service Workers (HSWs) who appear in person at the Philippine Embassy/POLO-OWWA within a reasonable period of time after they run away from their employers.
- Upon admission, the HSW is oriented on BK House Rules and is informed of amicable settlement and repatriation procedures through the services of the Philippine Embassy/POLO-OWWA and the Saudi Social Welfare Administration (SSWA).
- The shelter does not admit HSWs who have long stayed with other employers or with fellow Filipinos after running away from their sponsors (so-called TNTs), but shall help them get endorsed to SSWA for clearance and exit visa procedures.
- In specific cases, TNTs may be admitted with the written endorsement of the Embassy. Such cases include trafficked victims.
- Those admitted are not allowed to work for other employers.
- Those who were previously admitted but subsequently ran away from the shelter are not re-admitted.
Part of the assistance provided the wards at the FWRC is their endorsement to the Social Welfare Administration (SSWA) of the Saudi government within a reasonable period of time after mediation efforts by POLO case officers fail.
Counselling - POLO-OWWA Riyadh provides counseling to OFWs who get in touch in person or by phone with POLO-OWWA officers for various queries related to their employment and stay in Saudi Arabia.
Repatriation Assistance – Repatriation services include negotiations with the employer, police and/or immigration authorities; plane ticket sourcing; booking and re-booking facilitation and airport assistance in Riyadh and in Manila.
Under normal circumstances, it is the joint responsibility of the employer, the Philippine recruitment agency and the Saudi manpower agency (if there is any) to repatriate the OFW pursuant to provisions of Republic Act No. 8042, as amended by Republic Act 10022. In case the employer and/or the agency is unable to repatriate the worker, the Philippine government through the OWWA--in case of regular/documented worker--or the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)--in case of irregular/undocumented worker--shall repatriate the distressed worker upon request of POLO or the Philippine Embassy.
The POLO does not maintain a stand-by fund for the repatriation of workers. Prior approval by either OWWA or DFA is required for this purpose on a case-to-case basis.
The POLO, in coordination with the Philippine Embassy, reaches out to the different Filipino community associations in Riyadh.
Part of POLO’s commitment to community involvement are the following projects, namely:
DOLE/OWWA-Microsoft Tulay Project – This joint project is open to OWWA members. Different courses offered such as computer fundamentals, hardware assembly and maintenance, and digital imaging. A group of Filipino volunteers conducts the courses under guidelines of POLO-OWWA.
Reintegration Preparedness Program – POLO-OWWA Riyadh supports the efforts made by FILCOM organizations towards reintegration planning and preparedness. Notable among these efforts are those of Filipino Cooperatives and Savings Associations (FILCOSA).
Wards at the FWRC also benefit from livelihood training courses conducted through a volunteer Filipino community group. These courses include cosmetology, meat processing, simple baking, candle making, soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar processing.
Overseas Labor Education Program (OLEP) – POLO-OWWA conducts OLEP sessions for Filipino community leaders and interested workers on rights and duties of workers under the Saudi Labor Law, as well as other laws affecting OFWs.
ISSUANCE OF OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT CERTIFICATES
POLO issues overseas employment certificates (OECs) to workers going on vacation to the Philippines for their convenience. The OEC is required to be presented to international ports of exit in the Philippines as proof that the holder is a bone fide OFW. OEC holders are exempted from paying the travel tax and the airport terminal fee. The OEC has a 60-day validity.
In applying for the OEC, the worker has to present the following documents to POLO, namely:
- copy of exit/re-entry visa,
- copy of passport,
- proof of employment such as certificate of employment or company ID issued by the employer.
Cost of the OEC is Saudi Riyal 9.00.
IMPORTANT POLO CONTACT NUMBERS
Landlines: (01) 483-2201, (01) 483-2202, (01) 483-2203
(01) 483-2204 (fax number)
POLO Hotline : 00966-545917834
Labor Attache for Eastern Region
TEL : +966 3 8941846
Fax No. : +966 3 8995714