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GCC to hold talks with Asian labour officials in Dubai

By Staff

Officials from Gulf oil producers and key Asian labour exporting nations will meet in Dubai soon to discuss problems related to hiring of maids and other workers from those countries, a Saudi official has said.

The meeting, the date of which has yet to be fixed, follows furore over mistreatment of Asian maids in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations as well as Riyadh’s decision last year to suspend the recruitment of domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia.

“There will be a series of meetings in Dubai in the near future between labour representatives from the GCC countries and main Asian labour exporting countries,” Saudi labour ministry undersecretary Ahmed Al Humeidan said.

“The talks will focus on tackling all problems related to recruitment of labour from Asian countries in the GCC and on developing this sector in order to facilitate the hiring of domestic servants and other Asian labour.”

Quoted by the Saudi Arabic language daily Aleqtisadiah, Humeidan gave no other details of the talks apart from saying they would bring together labour decision-making bodies from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and such Asian nations as India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lank-- the main source of housemaids for the oil-rich region.

In the interview, he said negotiations with the Philippines and Indonesia had made progress and maids from the two countries would soon be readmitted to the Gulf Kingdom after a ban of several months.

“We are on the verge of reaching arrangements with those two countries…they include acceptance of our conditions and vice versa,” he said. “We have made proposals and they are still under negotiations.”

Sitting atop a fifth of the world’s recoverable oil deposits, Saudi Arabia suspended visas for Indonesian and Filipina housemaids in early 2011 in response to curbs on their travel at home following a series of incidents involving the maids in the Kingdom.

Saudi newspapers said late last year the Kingdom is nearing a final agreement with those two countries on new maid job contracts that will guarantee the rights and safety of those workers.

The agreement with Manila set the monthly salary of a Philippine maid at a minimum SR1,500 ($400), inclusive of housing and food. The agreement left it for the employer and employee to specify the basic salary.

Riyadh has said it suspended the hiring of housemaids from the Philippines and Indonesia after the two countries introduced stringent terms for their employment in the Kingdom, one of the world’s largest bases for Asian housemaids and the second for Philippine domestic workers after the UAE.

Employment offices across Saudi Arabia have said they were already negotiating with other countries to supply maids and offset a shortage resulting from the boycott of Philippine and Indonesian domestic workers.

More than 1.5 million housemaids from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other Asian and African nations work in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has been under fire from local and foreign human rights groups over the death of some housemaids, who have been reportedly killed by their employers. Pressure mounted in late 2010 following news that an Indonesian housemaid was severely tortured by her female employer.