Riyadh, Jakarta sign long-awaited labor pact

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the recruitment of domestic workers, a landmark pact that will guarantee protection to domestic workers, including maids deployed in the Kingdom.
“On behalf of the Kingdom, Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih inked the MoU here on Wednesday,” confirmed Ahmed F. Al-Fahaid, deputy minister for international affairs, while speaking to Arab News on Thursday.
“Indonesia’s Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar signed the MoU representing Indonesia,” said Al-Fahaid. A joint panel will now discuss how to work out “a plan to start recruiting domestic workers from that country and provide added protection, as well as incentives within the framework of the MoU already endorsed,” said Al-Fahaid.
The agreement also commits Indonesian authorities to ensuring that prospective maids or domestic workers have had medical check-ups and have not been involved in crime.
Al-Fahaid said the accord did not cover pay rises or fees, but that he was “committed to offering more options to Saudis…to access more countries deploying domestic aides to prevent a price hike in the labor market.”
The new pact guarantees every worker one day off a week, leave entitlement and health insurance, besides accessibility in terms of communication, said Indonesian Minister Iskandar, while speaking about the labor pact. He said the MoU guaranteed that Indonesian workers “would have salaries paid via banks, would have online access to a work contract and would be able to contact a 24-hour call center if in need of help or repatriation.”
He said: “The agreement was a milestone in the placement and protection of overseas workers…and domestic workers will no longer be deprived of their passports nor prevented from communicating with the outside world.”
Indonesia has been pushing for guarantees for the last four years following allegations of overwork, nonpayment of wages, torture and sexual abuse of its workers.
According to a report published by the Jakarta-based National Placement and Protection of Overseas Workers Agency, Saudi Arabia is home to about 1.2 million documented Indonesians, mainly maids.
Indonesia had previously imposed a moratorium on the placement of migrant workers in the Kingdom effective Aug. 1, 2011, until an MoU on the protection of migrant workers was signed.
Indonesia comes next in line with India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to sign this MoU with Saudi Arabia. Last July, the Saudi Cabinet passed a new regulation governing the treatment of the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers in the Kingdom. The regulation offers certain basic protections, such as requiring a daily break, prompt salary payment at the end of each month, sick leave, and a month-long paid vacation every two years. It also prohibits sponsors from assigning work harmful to the workers’ health.

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