Saudi minister: Firms started to pay worker wages

Two weeks ago, King Salman, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, set aside $27.2m to help the stranded workers, mostly from Pakistan, India, Philippines, and Bangladesh

Representational image.
Representational image.

Several distressed local construction firms, including Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), have now started paying overdue wages to its workers, Saudi labour minister Mufrej Al-Haqabani told local newspapers.

The minister said that SBG executives promised him that payments would be completed by September 2016.

However Saudi Oger is the only company still broadly withholding payments, and the ministry will press foreigners' wage claims through the Kingdom's labor dispute system, Al-Haqabani said.

"For Saudi Oger now, we will take it to the courts; We are responsible for that. We have hired lawyers," he said. "As the ministry, we will go through the labour dispute courts to go after Saudi Oger and collect the claims."

He also said that the troubles at Saudi Oger were not a sign of problems with Saudi Arabia's overall employment of foreign workers, most of whom were choosing to remain in the country.

The minister added: "This is a small segment of the labour market. We have more than 10 million expats working happily here in the country. When a company like Saudi Oger fails to comply with the rules, this will never destroy the good image of our labour market."

A number of workers in labour camps, waiting for their dues to be settled, have decided not to leave until their cases are cleared.

"We will wait here for our money. Then we will go back," said Sardar Naseer, a Pakistani welder at the Qadisiya Labour Camp, which houses around 2,000 workers from Saudi Oger.

Naseer told Arab News that he is owed $5,989 (SAR22,000) after receiving no wages for eight months from the company. Workers at the camp, about 20km from the centre of Riyadh, said they had stopped work about four months ago and none had been paid since January 2016.

The Labour Ministry, along with respective embassies, is taking care of the basic services at the camp, local newspapers reported.

Two weeks ago, King Salman, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, set aside $27.2m (SAR100m) to help the stranded workers, mostly from Pakistan, India, Philippines, and Bangladesh.

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