Showing posts with label Nitaqat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nitaqat. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2012

New developments in Nitaqat program

I had covered in my earlier post (click here) in detail about the Nitaqat program. I would now like to update readers of some very important developments which have been announced by the Saudi Ministry of Labor.

Four conditions have now been imposed for those who want to transfer their jobs from red and yellow categories to green and excellent categories. The workers requiring transfer must have completed at least six years in Saudi Arabia and at least two years in their current companies. The transfer would be done only when their work permits expire and finally, such workers must obtain a request letter from the green / excellent category companies asking their transfer from red/yellow category companies. This letter must be submitted to the Ministry of Labor for initiating the transfer process.

Let us analyze what this really means for expats. To begin with, those expat workers who really thought that they could automatically get rid of their current red/yellow category employers for a better future with green/excellent category companies cannot do so. The worst affected are those who have recently come to the kingdom and who have not yet completed six years.

Secondly, even if they have completed six years, they would have to wait until their work permits have expired. What this means is that since red and yellow category companies have to fold up anyway, these people would lose their jobs and have to leave the kingdom. In other words, if their current company has not employed enough Saudis to become green or excellent, they have to send back their employees (those who have recently arrived) to their home countries. What a torture it is going to be for these people!

This is indeed a very big turning point for a huge section of expats as it is going to decide whether they can continue or not in the kingdom. I will continue to keep updating you on further developments in this blog.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Expats affected by Nitaqat

Much has been spoken about Nitaqat and its associated procedures, with so much hype about Saudization. For the uninitiated, a quick recap of my earlier article (click here) is not out of place. What I would like to focus now is about expats who have lost their jobs and worse still, those who do not even know their fate.

After so much talk about how expatriates who were in red and yellow categories could transfer themselves to green and excellent categories without their sponsors' consent, a new type of problem has now begun to surface. Unscrupulous sponsors have now started dumping their expat employees under the pretext of Nitaqat, without paying their dues. The worst affected are those who found jobs in green category whose new sponsors don't want to change their iqamas. In other words, the sponsor's name and details have to be transferred in the iqama but doing so would mean additional burden for the new sponsor (like charges for iqama renewal, exit/re-entry fees, etc., so, these poor guys are like neither here nor there officially. Many of them have unpaid salaries mounting to several months from their previous sponsors.

On a related note, much has been written about expats abandoning their sponsors and fleeing / working with other sponsors illegally, etc. The fundamental question is, why would they do it if they were paid their dues properly and on time? Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the law wantonly, right? In this context, I would like to bring to your attention a very important provision in the Saudi Labor Law. I quote from Article 81 (1) which mentions as follows:

Without prejudice to all of his statutory rights, a worker may leave his

job without notice in any of the following cases:

(1) If the employer fails to fulfill his essential contractual or statutory

obligations towards the worker.

So, there you go. There is actually official sanction that a worker may leave his job without notice if his sponsor doesn't pay his dues OR any statutory obligation (which means renewal of iqama, payment of overtime where applicable, end of service benefits, etc - all of these fall under "statutory" obligations).

Now, why then all this talk in the local press about expats abandoning their sponsors as though they were criminals? Don't get me wrong, I do not want them to abandon their employers, afterall they have come here to make a living. The point I am trying to make is that, when it is perfectly legal to do so (at least that's what the law says), why are these poor guys made to run from pillar to post just to get what is rightfully their due?  I had mentioned in one of my earlier articles (click here) about how important your contract is. But what do you do when it is so blatantly flaunted by some greedy sponsors? To add fuel to the fire, we now have news about a proposal to tax expatriates. Please, first pay the salaries properly and on time, then talk of taxing expats!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nitaqat nightmare

My earlier post (click here) on changes to Iqama profession for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia evoked such a huge response that I decided to do a follow-up post on the same.  Many concerned expats wanted to know about the status of their companies, whether they were in the red or yellow categories.

Before going into the details, a small recap. As already mentioned, companies in Saudi Arabia have been categorized into Green, Yellow and Red depending on the level of Saudization carried out. There is also a so-called "excellent" category above the green category, but this is of not much concern to expatriates in Saudi Arabia, so let's forget it for the moment. Those companies with the least Saudization, i.e., red category are in really big trouble. The iqamas of expatriates working in these companies are not being renewed after 26th November, 2011. Even though officially denied by the Government, most expats in these companies are even afraid to go on vacation in the fear that their exit/reentry visas would be converted into exit visas at the airport by the immigration. There is no smoke without fire, they say, so the suspicion is that there might have indeed been some cases which have happened this way. There is no way to confirm this, though. With a system so opaque, one cannot but sympathize with these people.

Time has been given until 22nd February, 2012 for employees in the red category and yellow category to find themselves jobs in the green or excellent cateogories. Expatriates have been waived from getting clearance from their current sponsors in red category to move over to jobs in the green range. Sadly, companies employing 9 persons or less do not fall under Nitaqat program so people working in these firms still need a release or NOC from their sponsors to move into better jobs. Those employees in the red category who are unfortunate not to find suitable jobs in the green category would be forcibly be given Exit along with their families upon expiry of their iqamas. In other words, they have time to look out for a job in the green category until their iqama expiry.

People in the yellow category are only slightly better off than those in the red category. Until 22nd February, 2012, these companies must convert themselves into green category, i.e., they must improve their Saudization levels substantially. In case of failure to do so, i.e., if they are still in the yellow category, employees working in these companies have the option of finding themselves jobs in green category without any kind of approval from their current sponsors. However, for those who continue with their current sponsors, their iqamas would be renewed only if they have put in less than 6 years stay. If not, it is curtains for these people and Exit would be stamped on their passports.

I would like to caution expatriates who are transferring themselves from the red and yellow to green categories, who have unresolved disputes with their current sponsors. You have to necessarily follow all procedures just as in any normal case with the sole exception that you do not need the consent of your current sponsor (applicable for yellow category from 23rd February, 2012 and for all in the red category). Take a look at my previous post for reference (click here). Note that you MUST definitely file your claim with the Ministry of Labor within 6 months from the date of your transfer to green category. Failure to do so with forfeit any future claims you may have. Also note that you CANNOT go on exit/reentry or be sent on exit within the first 6 months of your transfer to green category, unless and until your new sponsor has a written confirmation from your previous sponsor in red / yellow category that there are no claims against you from the previous contract. Somehow, I get a sick feeling of expats being held like a dog on a long leash!

Now comes the most crucial question on how to find out which category a particular company is in? It is quite pathetic that leave alone moving into green category, expatriates do not even have access to the basic information of their company's 'color'. A saving grace is the website of the Saudi Ministry of Labor. Click on this link, but before that keep someone beside you who can read Arabic because this web page, so important for expatriates, is completely in Arabic. Some customer service!

Type your iqama number in the space provided and click on the 'Submit' button. Your name along with your company's category should appear in Arabic. Again, please note that this is applicable for expatriates whose companies have a minimum of 10 workers or more. I really feel sorry for the large majority of unskilled expatriate workers, who do not even have access to internet. Where is the promised sms service which was supposed to provide instant information about an expatriate's category? I would like to appeal to readers to support these poor guys and pass on information about their company status, lest they are sent on final exit one fine day without even knowing the reason. 

The coming days are going to be very crucial and would decide the fate of several expatriates working in Saudi Arabia.