"Hundreds" of Filipinos working on a remote island in the Indian Ocean are stranded due to a wage dispute between their employers and the Philippine government, the Washington Post reported.
In Manila, Presidential Spokesperson Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the Department of Migrant Workers under Sec. Susan Ople would release a statement on the condition of OFWs in Diego Garcia Island, located south of India and between Africa and Southeast Asia.
The OFWs employer, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) cancelled chartered flights between Diego Garcia and the Philippines at the start of 2022 as a form of "emotional blackmail" to renew their contracts at their current salary, according to the report.
The Philippine government had demanded that the OFWs be paid the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25 (P415) per hour. Filipinos are among 1,200 civilian employees of KBR, the Post said.
“KBR has been preventing them from returning to the Philippines to be with their families unless they sign an extension of their contract based on the old minimum wage rate,” the Post quoted DMW Usec. Bernard Olalia as saying.
“In effect, KBR is employing emotional blackmail by making their return to the Philippines conditional on their agreeing to an onerous contract. Not only is this unlawful, but it also violates the basic rights of these Filipino workers," Olalia said.
The Post also quoted KBR vice president for global marketing Philip Ivy as saying that the flights "never had anything whatsoever to do with Philippine wage requirements". Ivy said flights continue to operate from Diego Garcia to Japan and Bahrain and that Filipinos are allowed to board them.