A letter of concern

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The government of Saudi Arabia has extensive laws on the books protecting the rights of employers and workers. Unfortunately, the biggest source of violations comes from some employers who often disregard the rules to their advantage, thereby providing their employees with a lot of grief.

Such flaunting of the law is not restricted to any one particular industry. It could happen anywhere, and labor courts have their calendars overflowing with cases of people whose contractual rights have been violated.

A case in point is a letter I received recently from an individual who highlights one such incident of worker abuse. He says:

“Dear Mr. Al-Maeena,

“I am one of your avid readers and I admire your keen observation of the plight of members of the expatriate community. As an expatriate who as lived in the Kingdom for over 23 years, I have a very high regard for your people, your culture and tradition.

“I look at every place as full of the holy fruit. A sanctuary for lasting hope, peace and security. A place for the true believers of Islam. Your country is a place of justice for all regardless of color or race.

“I thought that abuse only happened to domestic helpers. However, I was shocked to learn that it also applies to top managers!

“Am I mistaken? I ask myself this question after I talked to a man yesterday who is a professional in good standing and is a manager of a business for one local Saudi.

“He informed me that he was part of a small group of people who helped establish the standards for Saudi Arabia’s cement industry. He is a member of ISEP, who worked in the Kingdom for over seven years. He is supposed to go on exit but his employer has not allowed him to do so.

“He is no longer receiving his regular salary and his assigned vehicle was removed in an attempt to make him change his mind. He consulted officials from his embassy who then visited the company, but still, the management of this company refused to change and stands like a stone wall.

“It was alleged that no one can interfere in the decision of the company to hold on to this particular expatriate. So, there is a special rule that they can call upon where the rules of government apply.

“My questions here are:

1) Is it not the Saudi government’s goal to provide jobs to local people, particularly at the management level position?

“If so, would this action on the part of the top management of this Saudi company be legal as it appears to go against the government mandate of Saudization?

2) Does that mean that this company is connected to something above the law and government of this country?

3) Does it mean that there are forces here in Saudi Arabia that are beyond the reach of any authority?

“I believe in the strength of justice in the government of Saudi Arabia. Is it possible for the government to reach a reasonable decision whether on the side of Islam or other agencies which would somehow demonstrate that there is a way to help undo the injury done to this man? - Regards, EG.”

To answer EG, I must say that the government in no way tolerates such practices. On the contrary, the drive toward Saudization is one of their top priorities. However, that does not mean all employers are complying with such directives and some of them often find ways and means to delay these programs.

No company is above the law, and the Labor Court would indeed be the venue to reach a fair settlement in the case of such violations of individual rights.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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