IRAQ: Philippine Officials Fly to Iraq to Mediate Labor Dispute
Philippine diplomats will go to Taji, Iraq, to help settle a labor dispute between Filipino workers and two US companies in Camp Cooke, a US military base, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said on Friday.
Ricardo Endaya, chargÃ© d'affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, reported that he will lead a team to meet with executives of US firms Prime Projects International and Kellogg Brown and Root to improve the working conditions of some 300 Filipinos working at Camp Cooke. He had earlier met with the Filipino workers there.
Romulo said the DFA intervened after receiving a report on May 24 that Filipinos were complaining that working conditions and hours in the US base violated their contracts with PPI and KBR.
The two companies are manpower and logistics providers for the US military in Iraq.
The Filipinos were later joined by 500 workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Their contracts were approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration before the Arroyo administration banned the deployment of Filipino workers in Iraq in July 2004.
The talks between the Filipino workers and PPI resulted in a deadlock prompting the company to threaten the Filipinos that they would be returned to the Philippines on two chartered flights from Dubai International Airport.
Endaya said his earlier meeting with the Filipino workers temporarily ended the labor dispute. The Filipinos have returned to work, he added.
Endaya reported that he will raise their complaints when he meets with PPI and KBR executives.
The KBR manages noncombat related operations of US military installations in Iraq; the PPI supplies KBR with manpower.
In Manila, the DFA, through Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Jose Brillantes, will discuss the Filipinos' complaints with the POEA to find a solution.
The DFA reminded the public that the ban on sending Filipino workers to Iraq remains.
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