Addis Ababa March 22/2016 Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Ethiopia is close to sign Labor Exchange Agreements with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that enables the country to protect the rights and benefits of its domestic workers.
Director of Middle East Affairs with the ministry Ambassador Siraj Reshid told ENA that consensus on major terms of the agreements is reached with the two largest Ethiopian labor hiring countries.
The government of Ethiopia stopped sending of unskilled labor to all Middle East countries in October 2013 after mass deportation of citizens.
Ambassador Siraj noted that the new agreements will make labor hiring governments share the responsibility with agencies and household employers if Ethiopian domestic workers have not got their salaries and other benefits as per contracts.
According to the director, the negotiation on the Labor Exchange Agreement with Saudi Arabia, the principal Ethiopian domestic workers' hiring country, is about to conclude.
''Saudi Arabia is one of the countries many Ethiopians travel. We can say the agreement with Saudi Arabia is almost a done deal except for two things: a disparity in minimum wages and Saudi Arabia’s demand to Ethiopia’s government to take the responsibility of banning its citizens who were deported from the Kingdom not to re-enter into the country are the issues remain to finalize the deal. The matters need negotiation and we extend further discussion and would sign the agreement soon," he elaborated.
Ambassador Siraj said successive dialogues are underway on ways to ban the travel of the deportees and to narrow down the gap in Ethiopia’s demand of a 1,200 Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) minimum wage for its domestic workers and Saudi's offer to pay 700 SAR.
Last January, the Ethiopian Parliament endorsed overseas employment recruitment bill that will change the working situation of Ethiopian citizens in the Middle East in terms of fair salary and protection from violent acts.
The bill forbids employees from leaving for a country Ethiopia does not have a Labor Exchange Agreement and required them to meet certain criteria in terms of knowledge, skill and language of the country before allowing them to leave.
Ambassador Siraj stated that the agreement with United Arab Emirates, the second largest destination for Ethiopian employees, is also nearly completed.
He said: ''Similarly, the agreement with United Arab Emirates is close to its completion and I have a belief that we could sign the agreement with them too in the shortest possible time. We have agreed more than 95 percent with UAE in labor exchange agreement and we believe in the incorporation of the minimum wage to the agreement.''
The director indicated the difference between Ethiopia and UAE in the inclusion of the minimum wage to the agreement would be solved through ongoing discussions.
Siraj added that Lebanon is the other Middle East country which is close to sign Labor Exchange Agreement with Ethiopia and the two countries have exchanged documents to reach the final deal.
According to the official, the mutual understanding between Ethiopia and the Middle East countries is growing from time to time and continuous dialogues are underway to reach the final deal in the shortest possible time.
It was stated that Ethiopia has already signed Labor Exchange Agreements with Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan and the respective countries are awaiting for the Ethiopian government to lift the ban on overseas employment to recruit domestic workers.
Ethiopian embassies and consulate generals are partnering with relevant institutions in the respective countries to provide the required services for Ethiopian communities in the Middle East when problems arise, according to Ambassador Siraj.
However, the official noted that problems are complex and deep-rooted that needed multi-stakeholder efforts to sufficiently ensure the rights and benefits of citizens.