JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on Sunday issued a series of directives to the agencies concerned to address, once and for all, the issues of distressed workers of companies that have contracts with the government.
Labor and Social Development Minister Mufrej Al-Haqabani on Monday said the king directed him to take necessary measures, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance, to oblige contracting companies to pay the salaries of their employees in accordance with the government’s Wage Protection Program.
According to SPA, the government has been directed not to release payments to companies until they pay their employees’ salaries. The king’s directives come amid increasing complaints by workers about non-payment of salaries for months.
The cost of these services for the distressed workers is to be deducted from the employers’ receivables from the government, said the directive.
In one of his directives on Sunday, King Salman authorized the labor minister to also immediately address the housing and accommodation issue of the distressed workers by contracting with companies that provide such services.
The king also commissioned the labor minister to coordinate with Saudia to transport foreign workers who wish to return to their countries and to recover the bill from their employers. The minister is also authorized to contract with legal consultancy agencies to pursue the financial claims of the workers in local courts.
In the case of workers in distress who wish to leave the Kingdom, the king directed the Passport Department to facilitate issuance of final exit visas in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and relevant agencies.
An amount of SR100 million is to be deposited in the Saudi Arab Fund account for use to fulfill the king’s orders. The fund is to be under the disposal of the labor minister, who will provide the Ministry of Finance with all details of the expenditures. The Finance Ministry will then deduct these amounts from the floundering companies’ accounts.
The king also instructed the labor minister to meet with representatives of the countries concerned to discuss the issue of unpaid salaries and to explain the steps taken by the Kingdom in this regard.
Al-Haqabani underlined that the Saudi Labor Law ensures the rights of all workers operating in the Kingdom, and stipulates that all employers should transfer salaries to their workers’ bank accounts on time, without any delay, corresponding to the labor wages protection program.
He said the ministry periodically follows up on these transactions to ensure that the companies are abiding by the governing regulations.
The minister said that as per regulations, workers of companies which fail to pay their employees’ salaries for three consecutive months are allowed by law to transfer sponsorship to another employer without their employers’ consent, and the workers have the right to pursue their financial claims in courts.
Al-Haqabani said the ministry recently launched a new service called “Your labor adviser,” which provides free consultation to the workers and businessmen on labor-related issues and disputes.
Moreover, he said the ministry, in partnership with STC, is providing a free SIM card service to workers as they arrive at the Kingdom’s airports. The service includes general guidance and an explanation of the mechanisms in the ministry in case any worker is in need of the ministry’s service.
“The ministry’s call center operates around the clock and receives inquiries from laborers. The operators speak eight most common languages of workers in the Kingdom, in order to facilitate an accessible mean of communication with workers and resolve their cases when required,” the minister said.
The ministry has increased the number of immediate body units to 30 for the settlement of labor disputes and supreme body units up to 10 to ease the process of litigation and reaching ministry customers geographically.
With regard to Saudi Oger’s distressed workers, Al-Haqabani said the ministry has been following up on the case and found that the company has failed to fulfill its obligations toward its employees in terms of housing, accommodations and salaries. The ministry, as per the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, will take all necessary means to ensure the workers’ rights are fully fulfilled, he said.
“We reiterate that this is an individual case mishandled by one company and does not reflect a general image of the labor sector in the Kingdom. It is a private sector company, which failed to abide by the labor regulations. It will be held accountable for violations of the workers’ rights,” the minister said.