By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
The Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Doha has cautioned Filipino expatriates against signing any new employment contract, especially if it reduces their monthly salary and benefits.
“Any irregularity should also be reported immediately to us and to Qatar labour authorities,” labour attaché David Des Dicang told Gulf Times.
He said Qatar’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the National Human Rights Committee have been very supportive in addressing various labour issues faced by Filipinos in the country.
Some complainants continue to seek refuge from the embassy while others prefer to directly ask the help of Qatar labour authorities.
Dicang said they receive various cases of ‘contract switching’ – 'an illegal scheme perpetrated by some employers who collude with certain recruitment agencies in the Philippines.'
Some candidates say they are left with no option but to sign a new contract with lower pay and benefits. In some cases, workers are also found agreeing to the modified terms of the contract even before leaving the Philippines.
“We help them get what should be due to them, based on the original contract submitted by the companies to our office and which the workers signed back home,” Dicang said.
Contract ‘switching’ continues to victimise employees in Doha across work sectors, particularly in some cleaning companies, hotels, stores, and restaurants.
The labour attaché noted the embassy also attends to anonymous complainants who fear reprisal from their employers/sponsors.
Besides contract switching, he said they also receive cases of delayed salary and employers withholding the passports of their employees.
A Filipino employee in one restaurant in Al Wakrah told Gulf Times that based on the contract she signed back home, she was supposed to receive QR1,800 as monthly salary. But when she arrived, she was told to sign another contract, according to which her monthly pay is only QR1,200.
Other employees of the restaurant also had the same experience saying they were not informed by the recruitment agency that a new contract had to be signed in Doha.
The female waitress said she also paid the agency P40,000 (around QR3,000) as placement fee, a reason why she opted to sign the new contract.
“They told me that they will send me home if I refuse to sign it,” she said, adding that her employer/sponsor is also keeping all their passports.
A group of female hotel staff shared similar experiences saying their monthly pay is QR600 lower than what was agreed upon in their contracts.
From QR1,600, their salary went down to QR1,200 based on the new contract presented by the employer. “We had to take it otherwise they will send us home. But we really want to report it to our embassy,” one of the staff said.
In some cases, Dicang noted that employers agree to pay their employees. In one of the cases he handled, a company had to pay the difference in salary, ranging from QR4,400 to QR6,400 to each of the six workers who sought the help of POLO.
Other workers prefer to return to the Philippines instead of pursuing the case or finishing their contracts. Dicang said some individuals know their rights and refused to sign new contracts.
Three expatriates complained of delayed salary and contract switching against their employer, a trading and contracting company in Doha.
“Our salaries are always delayed, they promise to give it in two or three days but that does not happen,” said another complainant. “Worse, there is no timekeeping so we do not have any proof that we worked for a certain period of time.”
A worker said he signed a contract back home as a ground steward with a monthly salary of QR1,600 with a QR300 monthly food allowance. But when he arrived, he was asked to sign a new contract with only QR1,000 monthly pay plus QR200 food allowance.
He was also forced to clean windows of 20-storey buildings in Doha, a job which was far different from that of a ground steward. According to the worker, their company had also promised to relocate them from the labour camp to a better accommodation but nothing has been done until now.
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