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New call centres for labour disputes in Saudi

Six new multi-lingual centres formed to support workers in disputes with employers

Saudi labourers now have six new call centres to channel disputes through. Photo for illustration only.
Saudi labourers now have six new call centres to channel disputes through. Photo for illustration only.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour has established call centres in six key construction hubs in order to nip problems between labourers and employers in the bud.

The centres are in Makkah, Riyadh, Arar, Hail, Najran and Jazan – with plans to expand into other areas.

The formation of the call centres follows a number of small scale strikes at various worksites over the past year in the Kingdom. In early January, 150 expat labourers in Saudi Arabia’s south western city of Abha took action over the way their complaints had been handled by the company they worked for. Officials from the Asir branch of the Labour Ministry stepped in to mediate, and the matter was resolved relatively quickly.

An official report by the Labour Dispute Settlement department at the ministry said that the idea behind the call centres was to provide an extra channel for workers to contact authorities through, without the need to visit Labour ministry offices in person.

The report states the new call centres will track disputes and provide guidance to callers.

The report also indicated the establishment of internal translation offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, which will assist workers who do not speak Arabic. The translation services, which include Urdu, Tagalog, and English, are provided in person or via phone.

Strike action is illegal in many Gulf states, and sometimes leads to the deportation of those who’ve taken action against their employers. As such, strike action is often seen as a last resort by workers. Often, however, mediation with authorities between company managers and workers tends to resolve issues.

Strike action in the GCC may be illegal, but it is not uncommon. Last year more than 100 migrant labour workers who went on strike in Qatar over low pay were deported. Last week, a week-long sit-in protest at a hospital in Kuwait has ended after workers were paid three months’ worth of overdue salaries. Hundreds of construction workers building a new public hospital in South Surra reportedly stopped work, accusing their employer of not paying wages for three months.

 

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Construction Week - Issue 754
Nov 23, 2019