The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Saudi "Slave Experience". 

This sort of situation is repeated at regular intervals all over the country, sadly; only rarely does it make the headlines.

Governor Pledges Swift Action to End Workers’ Plight

DAMMAM, 9 June 2004 — Eastern Province Governor Prince Muhammad ibn Fahd has promised the Indian ambassador to bring a speedy solution to a labor dispute in a Jubail-based company which has not paid its workers for over eight months.

We go to Europe and the USA, to the best business schools. However the only technique we learn for "cash flow improvement" is not to pay our employees for several months. That's right, months.

Let's hope the workers took the case to court, then.

Some of the workers filed a case against the company at Jubail Labor Court, which found in their favor and directed the sponsor to pay them SR2,000 each and an air ticket to India. However, the workers say the court order was never implemented.

What? You expected the Court Order to be implemented? That was a bit naive. Better to go back to India, or look around here for another job.

They are virtual prisoners of their sponsor as they have neither passport nor iqama, or residence permit.

Mmm, that could be a problem. No passport to go back to India with. No Iqama (foreign worker permit) to get another job in Saudi. In that case, they'll just have to manage as best they can, until the money comes in again.

There are reports that many of the workers have resorted to begging in order to survive.

In a signed memorandum sent to various authorities and the media, the workers said they were in misery since they have no money and are not getting regular meals. “We are literally starving,” said a technician who joined the company two years ago.

Oh, I can see the problem. But at least they've got a roof over their heads.

The Indian Embassy intervened after the camp where the workers stay threatened to evict them as their employer has not paid the rent.

Yes, they were going to get evicted. Couldn't pay the rent, you see. We're all compassion. But that must be as bad as it gets.

To add insult to injury, a former general manager of the company ran away with their passports. The Indian Embassy has issued emergency certificates, but for an exit visa their iqama has to be renewed, which requires SR1,800 each and the sponsor’s consent.

But they don't have SR 1800 ($ 480), and they can't get a signature from a sponsor who has run away. So it can get worse, after all. That's Saudi Arabia for you. Shouldn't live here if you can't take a joke. But that's it, surely?

In recent days the Passport Office arrested some of the workers because they could show no valid documents.

...because their employer had run off with them. So we'll arrest them, it's obviously their fault. At least they may get some food in prison - I said we were compassionate.

Let's hope they didn't pay good money for the Saudi "Slave Experience".

Most of the workers came from India on an assurance from their recruiting agents as well as the sponsor that Comet was a big company involved in contract work at Saudi Aramco. They paid between 80,000 to 100,000 Indian rupees (SR7,000-9,000) to the recruiting agent to secure a placement in the Kingdom.

Unfortunately they did pay good money. About $2000 each.

Come and work in Saudi Arabia. If you're Western, you might get murdered. If you're Asian, you might get paid.

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