Grace period ‘exploited by some bosses’



JEDDAH: DIANA AL-JASSEM

Published — Friday 5 July 2013

Last update 8 July 2013 7:33 am

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Some illegal expatriate workers here claim their sponsors are using the amnesty as an excuse to withhold payment of their salaries.
The workers say they have yet to transfer to their current sponsors or find new sponsors. They say their sponsors are refusing to pay, claiming the Ministry of Labor would penalize them for making payments to illegal workers.
Rahma Ramadan, an Egyptian graphic designer who works illegally for a marketing company, said she has not received a salary since the announcement of the first amnesty three months ago.
“I always received my salary by check. When the raids started, the company stopped paying all illegal employees. When we asked the human resources department why this was happening, they claimed that the labor and passport offices were watching all salary transfers and that it was dangerous to make any payments,” she said.
“I don’t think there is any current plan by the Labor Ministry to check our salaries yet. I think our company is lying to avoid giving us salaries,” she said.
Ramadan said her company promised to pay her once the company sponsored her.
“I submitted my documents three months ago, but it's still being processed, which is why I have not received any money. With the amnesty now extended by four months, I expect the passport office to slow down again, which will lead to further delays in payment,” she said.
Mo’memen Hwamdeh, a Jordanian working for a private insurance company, said he has not received a salary for the past two months.
“My original sponsor let me work for another company, but my iqama and sponsorship is under him. I'm paying him a monthly fee of SR 1,000. When the amnesty was announced, he asked me to transfer my sponsorship, which is why all my documents have been at the passport office for the past two months. Since my iqama was there, I couldn’t get my salary through the bank,” he said.
He claimed that the bank asked him to renew his data, which would then allow him to withdraw his salary. “When I asked my company to pay me in cash or by check, they refused,” he said.
Other workers claim their sponsors are blackmailing them by threatening to report them if they ask for their salaries.
Ibrahim Hassan, an Eritrean driver, said: “I work as a driver for a small water factory. They've always paid me in cash every month. When the raids started, the owner stopped paying me. He asked me to give him my passport and iqama to transfer my sponsorship. After he collected my ID and passport, he stopped paying me.”
Adnan Ali, a Syrian accountant working for a private company, also claimed that his company stopped paying when the amnesty period started.
“When I left my company without getting any payment, I joined a small company managed by Saudi youth. They initially paid my salary for two months, but in the final month of the first amnesty, the owner paid me only 50 percent of my salary,” Ali said.
“When I asked him to pay me, he threatened to report me to the labor office. Due to my bad financial situation, I will continue working for half my salary, but will search for a new job.”
Expatriates are under further financial pressure because they are forced to pay huge sums to change their work status. The labor raids had also seen some black market operators charge between SR 10,000 and SR 25,000 to sort out sponsorship problems.

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