IRAQ: Filipinos Striking Against Contractors in Iraq Return to Work

Publisher Name: 
The Sun Star

THE 300 Filipino workers in a US military camp in Iraq who went on strike recently have returned to work.

Nicky Arcilla, vice president for operations of the Anglo-European Placement Services Inc., the recruitment agency that deployed the Overseas  Filipino Workers (OFWs) to Iraq said the situation in Camp Cooke, a US military base in the province of Taji, Iraq, has normalized.

Arcilla said it was Philippine Ambassador Ricardo Endaya, charge d'affairs in Baghdad, who convinced the OFWs to go back to their work.

"The strike was amicably settled by Ambassador Endaya," Arcilla added.

The Filipino workers, who were employed by Prime Projects International (PPI) and Kellogg Brown and Root, went on strike to protest against the delayed payment of their wages, inadequate food, and poor accommodations, which were violations of the contract signed by the workers prior to their deployment.

Meanwhile, a migrant workers' group said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must file a diplomatic protest against alleged inhumane treatment by US companies in Iraq of Filipino workers.

"We congratulate our compatriot workers for putting up the strike to protest the poor and precarious conditions migrant workers are in the war-torn nation. President Arroyo must command her diplomatic officials to issue the appropriate diplomatic rebuke to the US government for the treatment suffered by Filipinos under PPI and KBR. This shows the disdainful attitude of US companies towards OFWs who already are among the lowest paid expatriate workers in Iraq," said Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairwoman of the Migrante sectoral party.

On the complaints of the Filipino workers, Regalado said "this just shows that these US companies routinely violate workers contracts and are very exploitative in nature. This is what the Philippine government must protest."

Recruitment companies as well as American contractors have been urging the Philippine Government to lift the ban on the deployment of workers to Iraq.

However, President Arroyo and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) refused to lift the ban due to the deteriorating peace and order situation in Iraq.

The ban was imposed by the government following the abduction last year of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. Cruz was released by his captors after the government gave in to their demand for the pullout of the Philippine humanitarian contingent from Baghdad. (MSN)

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