26 May — It is now one year since Arab News exposed the plight
of a group of Bangladeshi laborers working for the Oyon Al-Hejaji
Maintenance and Cleaning Company.
then, although there were various diplomatic and commercial
moves relating to the case, nothing was solved. The only event
of significance was the fortunate — from the responsible authorities
point of view — disappearance of the laborers themselves.These
workers paid huge sums to labor agencies in Bangladesh.
their arrival in the Kingdom, having been contracted for a job
with a wage of SR350 per month, they found that they would be
given only SR100 and work for one month. They were then left
to fend for themselves.
far as the labor recruitment agency was concerned, it had made
its money and so its involvement ended there.
questioned at the time, the Bangladeshi Embassy stated that
it did not think any of this was its responsibility, because
the Bangladesh Manpower and Labor Ministry had not directed
them to take up the case.
Bangladesh Manpower and Labor Ministry in Bangladesh “did not
know of the circumstances.”
a separate incident in Makkah, the same Oyon Company was ordered
by the local Labor Court to pay their full wages retrospectively
to the 200 Bangladeshi employees.
it chose instead to send the 18 it considered to be the ring
leaders back to Bangladesh. Their back pay was used to purchase
is illegal under Saudi Labor Law, as the Saudi Council of Ministers
and the Labor Ministry have made it clear that “no private company
can shift the expenses or charge their expatriate employees
government fees such as iqama or exit/re-entry fees and if they
do, they must refund them all such charges.”
this rule was clarified, many embassies filed cases in the court
to try and get refunds for their expatriates.
however, the Bangladeshi Embassy. In May this year, yet another
200 unemployed and undernourished laborers marched to the Labor
Office in Riyadh to submit a series of complaints against their
employer: the local branch of the Oyon Al-Hejaji Maintenance
and Cleaning Company.
they were dispersed by the police before they could submit their
grievances. As a consequence of this, the complaint was not
legally registered – because it never reached the office.
made things convenient for Mahbub Alam, the Bangladeshi ambassador
to the Kingdom. It might account for his reaction when, this
week, Arab News asked him what he had been doing on behalf of
these Bangladeshi workers who exist in a kind of legal limbo.
are not known to us,” he stated. “It is not my direct responsibility.”
Arab News pressed his excellency: If this debacle is not his
responsibility, then whose is it? “A single case would be our
employing many people, that is their responsibility — or that
of the government.”
response raises more questions than it answers. Which was he
referring to: The Bangladeshi or the Saudi government?
can it be that one person is the embassy’s responsibility, but
groups of 200 are not? And would not be part of his ambassadorial
brief to know that three years ago the Bangladeshi Embassy rejected
250 visa applications from Oyon Al-Hejaji because of reports
that it was ill-treating its employees?
latest group of 200, which is the only tangible evidence that
a problem exists, made an appearance at the Labour Court on
the company’s labor supervisor, acted fast by allegedly splitting
the group up and sending them in smaller groups to a number
of mosques well outside of the city. How did he manage to do
this? By giving each individual SR50, and telling them to stay
away from the company’s headquarters.
laborers have since left the mosques, for destinations unknown.
the inquiry into their fate seemed to take on a more urgent
air, Harun-ur-Rashid unexpectedly returned to Bangladesh. To
tell their story to Arab News, the laborers had employed the
services of a shopkeeper, who sympathized with their plight.
few days ago, the shopkeeper told this newspaper that he had
not seen the group recently and assumed that they had disappeared
into the sea of illegal overstayers — probably to work as street
laborers are a symptom of a sick combination that can sometimes
come into play here in the Kingdom: byzantine bureaucracy, coupled
with commercial exploitation.
Courtesy: Arab News