No letup in abuse of domestic workers, says Lankan diplomat

Updated 05 February 2014
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No letup in abuse of domestic workers, says Lankan diplomat

Around three complaints are filed daily by Sri Lankan domestic workers against their Saudi sponsors, according to a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Consulate.
M.B.M. Zarook, consul for labor affairs, said the complaints are mostly regarding lack of salary payments, the renewal of the domestic workers’ contracts without their consent and some instances of beatings and physical abuse.
“Fifty Sri Lankan domestic workers made escape attempts in 2013,” said Zarook. “Cases involving sexual harassment among women workers transpire very rarely and do not exceed one case in every 1,000 workers.”
At present, around 350,000 workers and drivers reside in the Kingdom, with domestic workers representing 80 percent of them.
Zarook said the Sri Lankan government is providing training courses for domestic workers for three weeks in Sri Lanka prior to their traveling to Saudi Arabia.
“Workers receive language training, etiquette of hospitality training, lessons on how to run washing machines and home appliances, cooking lessons, and training on how to care for the elderly and children,” he said.
Early this month, the Kingdom decided to sign agreements with six labor-exporting countries to recruit domestic helpers as part of a comprehensive plan to streamline the domestic service sector.
Ahmed F. Al-Fahaid, deputy labor minister for international affairs, confirmed that Sri Lanka would ink a labor treaty in Riyadh on Jan. 14.
Mangala Randeniya, deputy general manager and media spokesman of the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment, said the agreement aims to reduce the cases of abuse and guarantee fair and humane treatment of domestic workers.
He said the contract would cover 12 groups of workers, including house drivers, cleaners, housemaids, janitors, tutors and waiters working for individuals or families.
However, the contract would only permit employment of domestic workers through licensed recruitment agencies, which act in accordance with the Kingdom’s regulations. It also extends to a protection mechanism, including insurance, especially for domestic workers.
Commenting on the visa rates, Zarook said it was an open market, and that the consulate had nothing to do with that. He confirmed that the rates depend on the brokers as well as the intermediary groups who travel between Sri Lanka and the Kingdom to raise the fare of visas and misuse the demand of families and scarcity of labor.
“The consulate plays a vital role by informing the recruitment offices and the workers in Sri Lanka about the importance of following work regulations in the Kingdom,” said Zarook


LuLu opens Saudi Arabia's largest store in Riyadh

Updated 36 min 22 sec ago
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LuLu opens Saudi Arabia's largest store in Riyadh

JEDDAH: LuLu Group recently opened its 150th hypermarket in Riyadh. It was inaugurated by Ibrahim Al-Omer, governor of Saudi General Investment Authority (SAGIA); Ibrahim Al-Suwail, deputy governor of SAGIA; along with Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan Al-Nahyan, UAE ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Yusuff Ali M.A., LuLu Group chairman; Shehim Mohammed, LuLu Saudi director; and other dignitaries and royal family members.
Located at the newly launched Atyaf Mall in Yarmouk, the hypermarket, the 13th in the country and the Kingdom’s largest, is spread across 220,000-square-feet.
Yusuff Ali M.A. said: “We are absolutely delighted to open our group’s 150th and Saudi Arabia’s 13 hypermarket in Riyadh and I am sure the shoppers here will be pleased by the new retail experience we have created. Through our internationally sourced quality products and enthusiastic staff, LuLu has been the most preferred destination for different nationalities and we will continue to preserve this identity with our new store.”
He added: “We see tremendous growth opportunities in the Kingdom and are glad to be part of the Vision 2030 by further expanding our presence here. We will open another 15 hypermarkets by 2020 at an investment of SR1 billion ($266 million) out of which five will be opened this year itself. This includes three hypermarkets in Riyadh followed by one each in Tabuk and Dammam. This is apart from the SR1 billion we have already invested in the Kingdom till now.”
The group currently employs more than 3,000 Saudi nationals, out of which 1,400 are women, amounting to 40 percent of Saudization.
“Our goal is to give employment to 6,000 Saudi nationals by the end of 2020. We have a very elaborate and effective multi-level training program, through which we not only train them here but also send the local recruits to other regions in the GCC and India for training in various departments. We have also tied up with Saudi vocational institutions and universities in this regard,” the LuLu Group chairman said.