I have written several articles on labor issues and especially about sponsor-expatriate employee relations. I have also focused on the need for speedy justice for these workers. Letters from all over the world have poured in. In fact many of my Saudi brothers ask why these people are so concerned when they live in Europe, America and Asia.
This is due to the fact that the two English language papers of which I have been editor-in-chief made it a major point to focus on the issue of how labor problems affect expatriate workers in the Kingdom. We wrote things that other newspapers did not write about.
I have always acknowledged in my writing and talks our gratitude to those workers who brave the hot sun and freezing weather to help build our country. Some may argue that these expatriates have also gained. I would say, yes, but point out that it is a two-way street. For years these people had no voice and were subject to the whims, whips and moods of their Saudi employers. Many were badly treated especially in terms of delayed payment of salary, abrupt termination of service and the false declaration that they were “huroub” or had run away from their sponsors.
In the past few years, the government has taken stringent steps to put a stop to all such malpractices which have given us a bad name. However, while the Ministry of Labor’s policies and procedures are commendable, especially in terms of wage and salary protection, slow movement, red tape and bureaucracy eventually make almost any labor case filed by an expatriate employee unsuccessful. The latest example is that of 33 workers in Al-Khobar who have lodged a complaint at the local office of the Ministry of Labor. They can no longer endure delayed salaries and threats. Many have left the country because they were completely discouraged and disappointed and their visas had expired.
I suggest that the Ministry of Labor hire smart young men and women who can converse in several languages and can communicate with those who want to lodge complaints or highlight their plight.