Thousands protest in Saudi over pay - report

Around 8,000 workers said to protest in Riyadh over delays in salary payments
(Image for illustrative purposes).
By Shane McGinley
Mon 28 Jan 2013 10:59 AM

Around 8,000 contract workers went on strike on Sunday in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, as they protested against a delay in the payment of their salaries, it was reported on Monday.

The workers gathered in the Al Aqeeq District of the capital early on Sunday morning, as security forces were called to try and calm the situation, according to a report in Saudi Gazette.

After talks with police, delegates were assigned to survey the workers’ complaints and to address their grievances to employers.

Workers, contracted by the Ministry of Finance and working on projects including the King Abdullah Financial Centre in Al Aqeeq, refused to move and staged a sit-in for around four hours.

The main complaint by workers, the report said, was a delay in paying salaries, with some claiming wages were up to three to five months in arrears.

Some also claimed their sponsors had said they planned to deduct money to cover the new SAR2,400 (US$639) expatriate fee applied to companies hiring more foreigners than Saudi workers.

Saudi Arabia, which is struggling to create public-sector jobs thanks to a decades-long population boom, is pushing ahead with plans to force more private sector companies to reduce their foreign workforce in favour of Saudis.

Roughly nine in ten employees of private firms in Saudi Arabia are expatriates, according to official estimates. Foreign workers, mainly from South or Southeast Asia, generally command lower wages than Saudi staff.

The Gulf state needs to create 3m jobs for Saudi nationals by 2015 and 6m jobs by 2030, Labour Minister Adel Al Fakieh said in January 2012.

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