Expats working in Saudi Arabia never had it going so tough, as what is happening now. Some of the developments within the past week left me rather upset.
The first was a story about drivers forced into begging because their sponsor did not bother to pay them. Click here to read it. No pay, no food and to top it all, no way for the employees to leave because their passports are with the sponsor. How many ever times has this happened in the Kingdom of Humanity? No one knows when this ordeal would come to an end. As is common with all such cases, the sponsor simply fails to turn up at the Labor Court at the appointed day which will simply adjourn the case to a far away date in future. And when that date comes, the same story repeats. No interim relief for the aggrieved party until then. And no one knows how many adjournments are given and whether such cases ever see the light of the day. This is how the system has been tailor-made to suit the whims and fancies of such morons.
The second story relates to a questionnaire released by the Ministry of Labor. According to the Advisor to the Labor Minister, this questionnaire is "aimed at finding the difficulties and challenges being faced by the workers". Great! So finally someone has acknowledged that workers do face difficulties and challenges. Now don't get elated at this news because what follows next is going to bring you crashing down to ground reality. The Advisor has "advised" all workers to fill in this online form and submit to the Labor Ministry. Problem is, Mr. Advisor, the questionnaire is in a language which most workers do not understand, let alone read. Take a look at it and you will know what I mean (click here). Not that people expected miracles out of this exercise, but do let us know to whom this questionnaire was meant for!
A more realistic and rather alarming truth has come out of the bag. This time it is directly from the horse's mouth - Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents a substantially large business community. The Deputy Chairman of the JCCI has revealed (click here) that 75% of the contracting firms in the kingdom have failed to legalize their expat (read illegal) workers. This is a frightening fact. Come on, this just means that three-fourth of the firms dealing with contracts did not bother to comply with the Ministry of Labor's infamous campaign in the past one year. No prizes for guessing who would be affected by this. So, what happens next? Will the MoL go ahead and punish these firms or will they take the easy route and punish the expats working in these firms by jailing and then deporting them?
The Saudi Government has announced (click here) that projects worth SR855 billion are going to be spent only in the year 2014 for new projects. Which is quite a lot of money. Why not spend a tiny winy miniscule fraction of this amount in just paying wages to expat workers - no I am not asking for charity - just their salaries, which they are rightfully entitled to? The development witnessed by the kingdom from barren sand to what it is today is owed only to the work put in by expats. Please treat them at least humanely.
To end the year on a slightly cheerful note, I just noticed that this blog had a visitor count of 1.2 million this week, thanks to you. Let us hope that the New Year ushers good health, good jobs and well-being for all of us and our families.