SOME 300 Filipino workers in the sprawling American military base in Camp Cooke in Taji, Iraq went on strike because of alleged violations in their employment contracts, an e-mail message to INQ7.net disclosed on Friday.
Ricardo Endaya, charge d’ affaires in Baghdad, confirmed the report to INQ7.net and said that the protest action started May 24 in an attempt to bring their grievances to the attention of their employers -- the Prime Projects International (PPI) and Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR).
However, apart from saying that the disputes were about working conditions and working hours within the base, Endaya did not specify the OFWs’ complaints.
The e-mail to INQ7.net was also vague. “Masyado na kaming ginigipit dito...Natatakot po kami (We are being pushed against the wall here...We are afraid),” the message said.
Endaya said 500 other workers from India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal later joined the 300 OFWs.
He said the dispute had deteriorated so much that the PPI threatened to return the OFWs back to the Philippines on two chartered flights via the Dubai International Airport.
Endaya said he rushed to the camp when he learned of the dispute and convinced the OFWs to return to work.
He said he promised to raise their issues with KBR, which manages non-combat-related operations of US military installations, and PPI, which supplies KBR with manpower.
He said he was making representations with officials of the two companies.
Endaya said the 300 OFWs had working contracts that had been processed and approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) before the government imposed a deployment ban on Filipino workers to Iraq in July last year.
The Filipino workers' problem has also been brought to the attention of the POEA, Endaya said.
At the same time, the Department of Foreign Affairs reiterated that the deployment ban to Iraq was still in effect and that POEA did not process any employment contracts for Filipinos in that country.
The Philippine embassy in Baghdad, in coordination with other Philippine embassies in the Middle East, continues to enforce the ban, the DFA said.