Saudi Arabia: 250 workers go without pay for seven months

Posted by admin on Mar 22nd, 2011

By FATIMA SIDIYA | ARAB NEWS. Published: Mar 22, 2011 22:42

JEDDAH: While some private sector companies are paying bonus to their employees following the recent royal decree that approved two months’ salaries in bonus for all government employees, not all companies are following suit — and some still have gone months without paying their workers. After the announcements Arab News received calls from employees who did not receive their regular salaries. A company that has two branches, one in Riyadh and another in Dhahran, did not give salaries to 250 employees, five of whom are Saudi. Local custom prevents the naming of companies or individuals who could be potentially involved in legal disputes.

A worker who preferred to remain anonymous and has been working for the company for years told Arab News that some are also facing problems with their iqamas.

“The owner of the company lives abroad and has everything perfect for himself and his family, and we are stuck here; he does not even come and check on us,” said the worker.

Top managers of the company, he said, did not meet with them but would only tell them that they did not receive anything.

The workers’ salaries range from SR1,200 to SR20,000 a month. According to the worker, the company owes about SR4 million in unpaid salaries.

“We are punctual when it comes to arriving to the office and doing the job, but they are not when it comes to paying our salaries,” said the worker. “We have families to look after and we also have installments that we need to pay, what if the police come and take me to jail?”

The worker said previously that their company has promised several times to resolve the matter, but nothing has happened so far.

Another worker who did not want to reveal any personal information said previously that the company also refused to allow them to take up part-time jobs elsewhere after they expressed concerns that they were short on cash.

Workers complained to the Ministry of Labor last year and were able to get two months salaries’ out of six.

However, many said they feel trapped because they cannot take other jobs and the company is not issuing final exit visas. Furthermore, many have expired iqamas, meaning they could be arrested and deported and thus free the company from paying back wages.

A common (and illegal) tactic for employers seeking to steal their workers salaries and violate their human rights is to report them as runaways. As runaway workers, they can be arrested, and even fined, before being deported.

The company’s 28 workers in Dhahran brought up the issue with Human Rights Watch (HRW), which published details of their plight on its website in May 2010. HRW also added that three of the men are in need of medical help.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said these workers are trapped and that “Saudi labor authorities need to make sure that companies can’t get away with violating workers’ rights.”

HRW has published two reports about the matter on its website — one on April 23, 2010, and the second on May 28, 2010.

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