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* Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia sign landmark deal on migrant workers
Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 12:11 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 14, Riyadh: Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia on Monday signed a landmark agreement in Riyadh to protect Sri Lanka's domestic workers employed in the Kingdom.

Sri Lanka's Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera and Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakeih have signed a memorandum of understanding for the protection of Sri Lankan domestic workers in the Kingdom, the Arab News reported.

The agreement will cover 12 categories of domestic workers, including housemaids, drivers, cleaners and waiters employed by Saudis.

According to the new agreement signed between the two governments, sponsors cannot hold the employees' passports and the domestic workers are not required to surrender their passports to the employer.

Also, the employers are required to remit the workers' salaries to their bank accounts instead of the usual practice of paying the salaries in cash.

The Kingdom has signed similar agreements that have a protection mechanism for the migrant workers with India and the Philippines earlier this month.

According to the Saudi Minister the agreement protects both the employer and the employee and hence would pave the way for more workers to come to the Kingdom.

He said the agreement would streamline the recruitment scheme between the two countries and help to resolve the issues facing the recruitment of domestic aides from Sri Lanka.

Under the pact workers should be recruited only through licensed employment agencies and the pact ensures that the right worker is recruited for the job. The workers should be physically fit to serve in the Kingdom and should adapt to the culture.

The labor agreement for domestic workers recruitment will create a unified and well-regulated system for recruitment with emphasis on monitoring the working conditions of workers.

It includes provisions that stipulate that contracts should be drafted a language that is understood by the worker and that the worker must be informed of what to do and whom to turn to in case of an emergency.

The worker also must be made aware of the facilities available to him or her, especially when it comes to health and personal safety, and the employer must agree to terminate the service contract after a maximum of two years if the employee wishes to leave his or her place of employment. In addition, the employee has the right to retain all his or her travel documents at all times.

Minister Dilan Perera has expressed his appreciation to the Saudi government for its cooperation to materialize the agreement.

Minister Perera has said that under the new agreement, the original passports of domestic workers will be in their possession and their salaries will be remitted to their designated banks.

"In my view, this will be the most protective mechanism for domestic workers in the entire Gulf region," the Sri Lankan minister has said.

Vadivel Krishnamoorhy, Sri Lankan Ambassador in Riyadh, has said that a standard employment agreement for the engagement of Sri Lankan domestic workers in the Kingdom would be adopted following implementation of this agreement.

"Under the pact, domestic workers can be assured of a safer, more decent and less problematic working environment," he has noted.

Although Sri Lanka has been sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia for the past 25 years, this is the first time an agreement was signed with the Saudi Kingdom to safeguard the rights of the domestic worker.

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