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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
US base's Filipino staff strike
By Caroline Hawley
BBC News, Baghdad

Soldiers line up for food at a US base
Filipinos say they are given poor food and accommodation
Around 300 Filipino workers have gone on strike at a US military base in Baghdad, apparently in a protest over their working conditions.

The staff are unhappy at working long hours and say they are given unsatisfactory food and accommodation.

The Philippines embassy says the action is part of a wider problem of how Asian workers are treated.

The Philippines has around 6,000 staff working at US bases in Iraq, mostly in construction, catering and maintenance.

Thousands of workers from around the world are being lured to Iraq, despite the dangers of going there, by the promise of pay cheques better than they would get at home.

Western workers can earn hundreds of dollars every day, while people from poorer countries usually get just a few hundred dollars a month.

An official at the Philippines embassy told the BBC that the staff now on strike were ready to put up with a lot for their wages, which they accepted would be lower than those of westerners.

Exploitation claims

But he said they deserved better treatment.

He said there had been complaints that 12 people at one base were sleeping crammed into a room without proper ventilation.

The US military does not directly employ the workers, who are hired by contracting firms.

Some of those firms used have been accused in the past of exploitation.

In one case last year, a group of Indian men said they were recruited thinking they were going to work in Kuwait.

They then found themselves taken to Iraq where they were stuck for months against their will.

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