P K Abdul Ghafour/Arab News
Jeddah, Dec 21: Saudi Arabia has taken a series of measures to protect the rights of foreign guest workers in the country, the Ministry of Labor said in a statement yesterday on the occasion of World Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on Dec. 10 every year.
“We have set up a department for taking care of expatriate workers. This department strives to protect the rights of workers and prevent abusing them,” the ministry said. Spelling out other efforts by the ministry in the service of guest workers, the statement said preliminary and high-level committees have been established at labor offices to settle labor disputes quickly.
Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi has issued a decision for the punishment of employers who delay payment of salaries for two months, the statement said, adding that such employers would be barred from recruitment for a year.
“If the payment of salary is delayed for three months consecutively a worker can approach the labor office to get his sponsorship transferred to another employer or company before completing an year,” the statement pointed out.
The order insists that neither the affected worker nor the new employer should pay any compensation to the first employer.
The ministry has banned trade in visas, a practice in which foreigners pay their sponsors a specific amount of money to facilitate entry into the Kingdom to seek jobs. “Employers are not allowed to collect any money from workers for entry visas, work permits, resident permits or exit and re-entry visas,” the statement said.
The Kingdom’s Labor Law also prevents inhuman treatment of workers, employment of children and forcing children into begging. “Those who violate these regulations will be banned from recruitment for five years in addition to punishments specified by the law.”
Al-Gosaibi had issued another decision reducing the length of workdays to seven hours for those who carry out burdensome jobs. “The ministry gives importance for the safety of expatriate workers at places of work,” the statement said, adding that the Labor Law prohibits employers from asking Saudis and non-Saudis to work in unhealthy conditions.
The ministry has issued a directory in Arabic and English to enlighten workers by providing them with basic information about work conditions, rights and duties and about the agencies they can approach whenever they face any problem.
These directories have been distributed through Saudi missions abroad and foreign embassies operating in the Kingdom. It has also prepared a media program to enlighten Saudi and foreign workers and produced a film titled “Partners in Development.”
The ministry has contributed to drafting a new law to strengthen enforcements against human trafficking. It conducted a training program at the Institute of Public Administration in association with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Virginia on how to deal with crimes related to human trafficking violations, which occur in foreign-labor recruitment scams.