India, Saudi Arabia ink landmark agreement to protect domestic workers’ rights

New Delhi, Jan 2: India and Saudi Arabia Thursday inked a “landmark” agreement for protection of the rights of domestic Indian workers in the kingdom as visiting Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih said a committee of senior officials from both sides would be set up to look into any possible future difficulties.

The Agreement on Labour Cooperation for Domestic Service Workers Recruitment was inked by Indian Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Fakeih here.

Ravi thanked the Saudi minister for “adopting a humanitarian approach” while adopting the Nitaqat work policy. He said the domestic workers protection agreement would help streamline the labour market.

“This would go a long way in protecting the interests of Indian workers,” he said.

The agreement was conceptualised in April last year during Ravi’s visit to the kingdom.

Some of the main features of the agreement, according to an official statement, are: It protects the rights of both the employers and domestic workers and regulates the contractual relation between them, ensures authenticity and implementation of the employment contract, takes measures against recruitment agencies who violate laws and establishes a mechanism to provide 24 hours assistance to the domestic sector workers.

A standard employment contract would be finalised that would provide minimum wages, working hours, paid holidays and dispute settlement mechanism, the state

Fakeih, while emphasising the “deep historic relations binding both countries”, said the “position of bilateral labour and economic relations is excellent and look forward to enhance it”.

“This important agreement is the result of the excellent relations between the two countries,” he said, adding that in case of any possible difficulties arising the two sides have agreed to set up a joint committee of senior officials who would meet periodically and alternatively in each others’ countries.

Ravi, answering queries, said the agreement was a “landmark agreement for protection of worker’s interests”. He said both sides had agreed on the need for a concrete way of dealing with the issue.

Of the around 500,000 domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, mostly working as maids, helpers, drivers and cleaners, around 10 percent are women. There are 2.8 million Indian workers in Saudi Arabia and Indians form the largest expatriate community in the kingdom.

IANS