Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New rules for domestic workers

It happens every time. There is anticipation of a big bang and finally when it does come, it comes as a whimper.

The Saudi Government has now announced new set of rules for domestic workers as well as those who hire them. There is nothing new in the announcement other than that it has now formalized private agreements between the domestic helps and their sponsors. As expected, the new rules stipulate that employers "must pay their domestic helps a monthly salary without delay". Fantastic! Okay, don't bug us, we give you the freedom to breathe so no more complaints, get back to work! Workers are to be provided a one-month paid vacation after every two years and an ESB of one month's salary after four years. Now there is a big list of "obligations" too. Take a look at this table (courtesy: Saudi Gazette)



You could take all of this with a pinch of salt, but what raises eyebrows is the penalties which are as expected, totally one-sided in favor of the sponsors.

There is a probation period of three months for the sponsors to "assess his or her performance or behavior". In other words, it can be hire and fire in these three months for the domestic helps. The worker has no such right to assess his sponsor's behavior. In fact, the new rule specifically states that the worker "has no right to reject a work or leave a job" without "a valid reason". No definition of what a valid reason would be. A nine-hour rest period is assured by the new rule. How generous. It just means that the worker is supposed to be on the job for the remaining 15 hours. The worker must "not harm the employers or their family members". No such restrictions on the employer. He can go ahead and smash the maid's head on the wall or hammer her finger nails until she becomes camatose, and still get away with just a fine of SR2000. That is, if at all he is convicted. But any violation by the worker means he or she has to not only pay SR2000, but also pay his or her return ticket back home. That is if the sponsor graciously returns the worker's passport. Welcome to the Kingdom of Humanity!

As more and more countries become aware of this modern-day slavery, it is getting difficult for sponsors to hire new slaves. On the one hand there is a propaganda of the number of jobs made available by Nitaqat and the billions of riyals being repatriated by the expats, while there is such a scarcity of domestic helps. Why can't the people making decisions at the top Saudize these jobs, if they really dare to? What is wrong in hiring people from your own country? What is so degrading in working as janitors, tea boys, barbers, plumbers and sanitary workers? Or are these jobs reserved only for those whom you consider as inferior races, from countries where there is no oil and who are so poor that they simply cannot fight back for their rights?

Who says there is unemployment in the kingdom for Saudis? What is lacking is not employment but the will to work, the courage to do any job honestly, the grit and determination to sweat it out and toil the hard way. And unless this happens, this country will still have a long way to go to be part of civilized world.



 

4 comments:

Violetta said...

Great work, Expatguru. You have reflected the views of hundreds of house maids, drivers and janitors.

Aslam Mohammed said...

Great observer

Micper said...

Hats off ... great article.

சுந்தர்ஜி said...

//What is wrong in hiring people from your own country? What is so degrading in working as janitors, tea boys, barbers, plumbers and sanitary workers? Or are these jobs reserved only for those whom you consider as inferior races, from countries where there is no oil and who are so poor that they simply cannot fight back for their rights?//

Questions will find no route to reach answers. Yet it will make the rulers to answer and fix them in a spot very soon.