More than one hundred Saudis staged a rare protest at
state-run Saudi Telecom (STC) in the capital Riyadh to demand better pay and
contract terms, three protesters said on Monday.
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy
without an elected parliament that bans public dissent or strikes.
"More than one hundred workers organised a sit-in in
front of a STC call centre building in Riyadh on Sunday," one protester
said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Two others confirmed they had
One of the protesters said workers demanded a 15 percent pay
raise like government employees were promised under benefits unveiled by King
Abdullah when he returned home from medical leave last month.
"Our main demands are 15 percent allowance for soaring
cost of living and fair bonuses. And we object being transferred as outsourced
staff to an Indian firm," he said.
Another protester said he had been working for the biggest
Saudi telecoms firm for five years but his initial monthly salary of SR4,000
($1,067) had risen only to SR5,400 since then, a level he described as too low.
A company official said STC Chairman Saud al-Daweesh had met
two representatives of the protesting staff to discuss their grievances, asking
them submit their demands in writing.
"Things were exaggerated. This is a normal issue that
happens at all international firms. Work was not affected at all," said
Mohammed Al Farag, director of media affairs at STC.
He said workers would be transferred to STC's Indian call
centre partner Aegis and would retain their rights, although bonuses would be
paid in future only to outperformers, not to all staff like in the past.
The protest came after activist said dozens of Saudis
gathered outside the interior ministry in Riyadh on Sunday to demand the
release of jailed relatives.
Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, has avoided unrest on the scale
of that seen in Egypt and Tunisia and which has spread to other Gulf countries,
but dissent has built up in the world's top oil exporter, an absolute monarchy
without an elected parliament. ($1=SR3.750)
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