DUBAI // Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, has pledged to do more to help Filipina housekeepers whose employment contracts are broken and are sometimes stranded in the country. Mr Ghobash made the pledge following a meeting with a Filipino senator, Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, to discuss ways to improve the work conditions of Filipinos in the UAE. The minister promised that the Government would ensure that job contracts signed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, a Philippine government agency that promotes and monitors overseas employment of the country's labour expatriates, were honoured by employers in the UAE.
Mr Estrada also said he would provide 30 return airline tickets to Filipina housekeepers who were stranded in the UAE. Over the weekend, Mr Estrada visited 155 Filipina housekeepers who had left their employers and were now in women's shelters in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Among their complaints was that employers illegally substituted the contracts they signed in the Philippines with ones with lower salaries when they arrived. Some also said their employers did not pay their salaries, while others said they were abused, were not fed properly or were forced to work as many as 20 hours a day.
One of the women at a Dubai shelter managed by the Philippine Labour Office, Marilyn Quinto, told Mr Estrada that she ran away from her employer after two months of not being paid. She said she had signed a contract in Manila that promised US$400 (Dh1,469) a month. But when she arrived in the UAE, her employer said she would receive only Dh700 a month. Ms Quinto, however, is not one of the maids who will receive an airline ticket as her Abu Dhabi residency visa must be cancelled before she returns home.
Mr Estrada leaves for the Philippines today with 20 housemaids. Another 30 will follow later this month. The senator assured the remaining 125 workers in the shelters that they would be sent home in the coming months. "I will raise funds to send other distressed workers home. I know how difficult it is to be away from your families," he said. Mr Estrada also plans to repatriate distressed workers in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.