DUBAI—When five women from Manila were offered the chance to earn more working in a restaurant in Dubai than they could ever have done back at home, it was a dream come true.
But when they arrived they very soon found that they had stumbled into a nightmare. They were offered wages far less than they had been promised in their contracts, made to work excruciating hours and sleep two to a bed in a crowded and run-down apartment.
The five cannot be named as they are currently pursuing a complaint through the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO). They say their case is not uncommon among the thousands of Filipino expatriates in the bustling emirate.
Although their original wage was of only US$380 a month—a tiny amount considering the cost of living in Dubai—it was more than they could’ve expected to earn back at home. They were promised one day off a week, shifts no longer than eight hours, free food and free accommodation.
When they arrived in Dubai they were asked to sign a second contract agreeing to wages of only US$190 a month and forced to work long hours
“We were hired as cashiers and saleswomen but now we're working as waitresses from 10am to 2am the following day. We have only one toilet and bathroom in our accommodation. When we come back from work, we have to queue up to wash our uniforms as we are only given two pieces each. By the time we finish washing, it would be 4am,” their complainant letter said.
Although they have been given free accommodation, each bed is shared by two persons making it difficult for them to sleep. A total of 27 Filipino workers are said to be staying in three small bedrooms of a flat.
The women said that there were many others like themselves who had been victims of breached contracts but who were too scared to complain.
Under-secretary of Labour Hamid bin Demas told English-language newspaper Khaleej Times that the UAE government was not responsible for any employment contracts made outside the country. “In such cases, the manpower agency responsible can only be tried in the country where the contracts were signed,” he said.
However he added that they may officially complain to authorities in the UAE but could only have their repatriation expenses paid for by the local employment agency if it was in breach of contract.
According to the newspaper, the local employment agency in the UAE said that the Filipino workers were “liers” but it is cooperating with the POLO.
It is not known whether the same is true of the liable agency in the Philippines.
A spokesman for the Philippines Embassy in the UAE said that consular officials were investigating the case.