Saudi King Salman orders protection of workers' rights

Saudi Oger contracting company has been the subject of complaints by thousands of its workers for not paying salaries to them for the past nine months

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a series of directives with the intention of resolving all cases of unpaid salaries and avoid repetition of such incidents in the Kingdom’s labor market in future, Minister of Labor and Social Development Mofrej Al-Haqbani announced on Monday.

Accordingly, special teams have been constituted to closely monitor the firms to check whether they are fulfilling their contractual obligations and to intervene in case of violations, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Oger contracting company has been the subject of complaints by thousands of its workers for not paying salaries to them for the past nine months.

Al-Haqbani said the recent labor issue is not a common phenomenon but a special case with a contracting company because of its violation of contractual obligations. The ministry will take penal action against the company in line with the Labor Law.

King Salman’s directive obliges companies to pay salaries to their workers through the Wage Protection Program. Under the system, companies will not be paid for their work by the government until the Ministry of Labor and Social Development confirms that workers’ salaries have been paid on time.

The minister emphasized that the Saudi Labor Law and its executive bylaw protects the rights of all workers in the private sector and the Labor Law is keen on having balanced relations between employers and employees with strict adherence to contractual obligations by both the parties in addition to protecting their wages through legislations.

“Under the program, all companies have to transfer salaries to bank accounts of their workers and the ministry will strictly follow these transfers every month and take penal action against firms violating the law. The ministry allows workers, who did not receive salary for more than three months, to transfer their sponsorship to another employer without the permission of the current employer and can sue the employer at labor courts for their dues.”

“Official inspection team from the ministry found that Saudi Oger Ltd. violated its contractual obligations with workers with regard to salary and accommodation. Serious lapses were found in serving food, providing health services to workers, and maintaining and cleaning accommodation.

The King issued orders to end the suffering of the workers in a decisive and quick way after seeing that the company failed to address these issues. Accordingly, the ministry has taken the following measures. The workers are allowed to renew their iqamas (residency permits), and get final exit visa at the state’s expense, and the company will be liable to meet this cost in due course.

The maintenance and cleaning of their accommodation have been done. The ministry also ensured continuous supply of food and drinking water to the workers and followed up on the efficiency of provision of this service.
Free medical services have been made available at their camps.

The ministry also entered into contracts with legal firms to offer free legal service to the workers. The ministry will guarantee rights of those workers who decided to leave on final exit. It entrusted Saudi Arabian Airlines to arrange free transportation for such workers and the payment will be levied from the company in due course.

The ministry also coordinated with the concerned embassies in identifying those who want to transfer their sponsorship and those who want leave the Kingdom on final exit.

Al-Haqbani also said that the ministry launched electronic service called “Mustasharik Al-Omali” to offer free consultancy service to both employers and employees on labor related problems.

The ministry, in cooperation with the Saudi Telecom, introduced the scheme to distribute free SIM cards to new workers upon their arrival at airports to contact the ministry if required.

The ministry also started contact center with services in eight languages so as to enable workers to lodge grievances.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Aug. 9, 2016.