MANILA, Philippines?The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) was able to abort a threatened walkout by 126 Filipinos working at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, through conciliation talks with their employer.
Ezzedin Tago, Philippine consul general in Jeddah, commended the Polo for its quick action. A walkout or a labor strike is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
According to a report by labor attaché Vicente Cabe, the conciliation efforts were led by assistant labor attaché Wesley Gacutan, who met with the group of Filipino workers and Awni and Bashar Shaker Ltd., the restaurant operator, to address the workers? concerns.
In late April, two Filipino workers presented a letter to the consulate?s labor section to complain about various labor issues, ranging from illegal deductions in pay and benefits to maltreatment at the workplace.
Gacutan immediately contacted the company and after insistent prodding, Awni Shaker, the Pizza Hut?s owner and general manager, agreed to a conciliation meeting at the consulate on May 2.
During the meeting, representatives of the 126 Filipino workers and Pizza Hut reached an eight-point agreement.
The management agreed to, among others, discontinue unnecessary deductions; respect the privacy of the workers in their accommodations; stop any physical harm; increase salaries after two years of satisfactory service; provide adequate water supply at the workers? accommodations; no forced work during prayer time; and help in processing exit permits.
The agreement was affirmed by the Awni and Basher Shaker Ltd. on May 3 and by 90 of 126 employees the next day.
On May 5, a formal settlement agreement was signed by the parties? representatives in the presence of Gacutan.
Tago praised the company owners for their open-mindedness and for addressing the complaints of the workers.
?The Filipino employees made a good move by bringing their problems to the consulate for conciliation before taking any drastic action which may be violative of local laws,? Tago said.