Despite the statement by Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih last week that the heavy transport business had achieved a high level of Saudization, investors are complaining about the Nitaqat program, which requires a specific percentage of Saudis to be employed in the sector.
In a report in Al-Youm newspaper, they claimed they lose SR 250 million monthly for failing to hire Saudis as truck drivers. The businessmen said they would lodge their complaint with the Cabinet if the ministry does not relax the mandatory 10 percent Saudization requirement, according to the newspaper.
Transport company owners claim Saudis do not accept this kind of job and insist they will retain their foreign drivers. But some Saudis assured Arab News that the problem is not in the job itself, but rather in the salaries being offered.
Mohammad Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi truck driver, said truck driving is a promising job, and many would take it if the companies considered nationalizing it seriously.
They don’t pay well, said Al-Ghamdi, saying that the companies want Saudis to work for SR 3,000 a month, while foreign workers earn much more.
“As for me, I obtained a driver's incense for heavy vehicles and bought my own truck. I started a profitable business,” he added.
Fouad Ammar, who has a YouTube channel dedicated to youth issues, said there should be a minimum salary fixed for the job and SR 3,000 is not enough to start a family.
“I think the private sector is running away from Saudization to keep their absolute power on foreigners, given that they cost the companies a quarter of Saudi employees,” said Ammar.
Arab News called several companies that were looking for truck drivers on job advertisement websites.
Abu Mousa, an employer, said he could not afford Saudi drivers. “We prefer non-Saudis, who would accept a salary of SR 2,000,” he said.
Other job adverts looking for Saudi drivers set a salary of SR 3,000 for drivers aged between 25 and 45 with a minimum experience of five years.
Ironically, businessmen asked the Ministry of Labor to secure them against the loss of Saudi staffers.
“Most Saudis won’t continue with us once they get another offer, even if it is only SR 500 more. We need the Labor Office to ban Saudis from working for new employers without a disclaimer from their former employer,” Abdullah Hashar, a heavy transportation investor, told Al-Youm.
However, Saeed Al-Basami, businessman and head of the National Transportation Committee, told Arab News he would pay SR 5,000 to SR 6,000 for Saudis if they meet the health and safety qualifications. He suggested for authorities to open a heavy vehicle driving school to fill the gap in the number of Saudis holding heavy transport licenses.
On the other hand, Abdullah Al-Mubaraki, a teacher at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, thinks that nationalizing taxis is much easier than the heavy transportation, as many Saudis don’t seem interested in working for this sector. “The question is: Why would the Ministry of Labor insist on nationalizing such unwanted job and ignore other profitable jobs occupied by foreigners?” Al-Mubaraki wondered.