The Saudi Arabian Binladin Construction Group has started repaying pending salaries to its workers, the kingdom’s Labour and Social Development minister Mufrej Al Haqabani has said. The minister also stated that the company – which has been struggling financially – will completely clear all its dues owed to its workers by the end of September, the local daily Arab News reported.
Al Haqabani said that only Saudi Oger – one of the worst hit by the oil slump in the kingdom – is continuing to withhold payments to workers. He stressed that the ministry will pursue the issue through the wage protection system.
Several workers – especially those working in construction companies – have been stranded without pay in the kingdom during recent months. Some have also been struggling to get food. Their situation has prompted their home countries to send senior representatives to Saudi Arabia to help resolve the issue. Officials from India, Pakistan and the Philippines have already met with authorities in the kingdom.
According to Indian officials, over 6,200 workers from the country – formerly employed by Oger – were stranded in camps after being laid off.
In response, Saudi’s King Salman set aside SAR100m of government money to help the stranded workers and also laid out new rules requiring companies to pay up their dues.
While workers have also been offered the option to return home for free, many say they don’t want to return without their dues.
Abdullah Al-Olayan, director general of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development branch in Makkah, who recently met Pakistani officials, said he discussed the unpaid salary issue with Saudi Oger officials.
Heconfirmed that the company has since agreed to return the passports of Pakistani workers and sort out their unpaid salaries. Pakistani workers can stay in the kingdom by changing jobs or leave the country with the Labour Ministry paying for all travel expenses, to be deducted later from their overdue salaries, he added.
This article byBy Aarti Nagraj was originally published by Gulf Business
Comment: The issue of unpaid, hungry and frequently homeless workers from the developing world has been treated as “embarrassing” by Saudi Arabia when, in fact, it is nothing short of shaming.
To bring guest workers into the country and then abandon them when funding begins to get tight is not the behaviour of a responsible host nation and, frankly, the latest measures – welcome though they will be to the impoverished and hungry workforce – are too little, too late. While the Ministry of Labour in Riyadh has prevaricated, countries including India and Pakistan, have been obliged to send food parcels to their worst hit nationals, some of whom have not been paid by their Saudi employers in months.
The Kingdom has offered to fly them home for free – big deal; quite understandably, most do not wish to abandon all hope of ever seeing the money they have worked hard for. Very few manual workers elect to work in the Kingdom for fun. They are there for the money, pure and simple, and the money – their hard earned wages – are what they are legally and morally entitled to. Plenty of time to discuss free airfares home when they have been paid their dues.
The impact of falling oil revenues on the oil producing nations has been enormous but, for the most part, the Kingdom’s business community and others like it around the Gulf, have pulled together to provide a safety net for those in need. Others have not.
It does not help that some of the top names in the companies withholding wages are among the richest and most privileged in Saudi society. These companies and others like them have making profits – ranging from considerable to enormous – for decades. It should have been the responsibility of those at the top to ensure that there are sufficient “rainy day” funds to cover responsibilities to some of the most vulnerable members of their workforce at all times. To do otherwise is callous to the point of inhuman, completely dishonourable and frankly, decidely unIslamic.