Arabisc: An Open letter to the Saudi Labour Minister

Saudi Arabian blogger Raed Al Saeed has written an open letter to his Labour Minister Dr Ghazi Al Gosaibi, who is also a distinguished writer and diplomat, and posted it online.

The letter, whether it made it to Dr Al Gosaibi's office or not, is available on the worldwide web for all to read and calls for treating local and expatriate workers equally. The issue of expatriate workers in oil rich Arab countries is a sticky one. While on the one hand they are a boon to their local economies back home, remitting to the tune of $14 billion to their countries from Saudi Arabia alone annually, the questions of abuse and discrimination are routinely raised when addressing how the the Kingdom treats its six million-strong foreign workforce.

And while expatriate workers agree to do menial jobs which many Arabs from oil-rich countries look down at, there is still talk among nationals of foreigners competing to take jobs from them – something difficult to gauge I presume amid conflicting reports on unemployment figures!

In this letter, Al Saeed writes:

بصفتي محب ومعجب بك وبأسلوبك الإداري وبإنجازاتك لهذا البلد فإنني حملت جزء من همك لخدمة مواطني هذا البلد وإيجاد الحل لمشكلة تسمى بالسعودة وإن كان أسمها الحقيقي أعطاء الموظف السعودي حقة بدون إقلال مقدار السواعد الغير سعودية التي ساعدت في بناء هذا البلد.
عزيزي الدكتور غازي أعتقد أن الحل يجب أن يبدءا بالاستعانة بالله ومن ثم الإستعانة بدستورنا وهو القرآن الكريم والسنة النبوية، فديننا الحنيف يحث على المساواة وإعطاء كل ذي حق حقه.
وبناءاً على مبدءا المساواة فيجب علينا المساواة بين السعودي والغير سعودي في أعطاء فرص العمل والمساواة أيضاً في حقوق الموظف السعودي والغير السعودي، وبما أن من الصعب في الوقت الحالي أعطاء الموظف الغير سعودي نفس حقوق الموظف السعودي فالحل يكمن في جعل الموظف السعودي في وضع مشابه لوضع الموظف الغير سعودي.
“As an admirer of you and your administrative style, and your achievements in this country, I share with you your concern serve my countrymen and find a solution for Saudisation (replacing foreign with Saudi workers), which really should be defined as giving the Saudi worker his right without looking down on the efforts of foreign workers who have helped build this country.
Dear Dr Al Gosaibi, I believe that the solution should begin by counting on Allah and our constitution, which is the Holy Qur'an, as well as the Sunna. Our religion calls for equality and giving all those we owe rights, their rights. Based on this, we have to treat Saudi and non-Saudi employees equally and give them equal rights. This will put Saudi employees on the same level as foreign workers,” he writes.

Al Saeed
argues that enforcing Saudisation rates is unrealistic, especially since his country is keen to catch up with the rest of the world and sign the much-coveted Free Trade Agreements.

ولطرح تفاصيل هذا الحل فلنبدأ بالاعتراف بعدم جدوى حل فرض نسب السعودة، فإسلوب الفرض غير مجدي في جميع الأحوال ونحن في بداية الطريق للتجارة الحرة ووضع القيود ليس في مصلحة التجارة والاقتصاد الوطني.
ونسمع دائما رجال الأعمال يرددون مقارنة الموظف السعودي بالموظف الغير سعودي بأن هذا الأخير أفضل من السعودي من ناحية الجدية في العمل والالتزام به، ويقوم منهم من غير أصحاب العمل بنفي ذلك وإعطاء أمثلة على موظفين سعوديين في قطاعات عمل أثبتو جدارتهم وأنهم كفئ ويرد أصحاب العمل بأمثلة عكس ذلك وندور في حلقة مفرغة.
“To begin detailing the specifics of this solution, let us first agree on the uselessness of imposing Saudisation rates. Enforcing quotas will not be feasible especially since we are taking our first steps towards joining the Free Trade Agreement. Having more restrictions will not be in the interest of commerce and our national economy. We always hear businessmen comparing Saudi to foreign workers, saying that the latter is better than the first when it comes to taking work seriously and being punctual. In comparison, there are others who are not employers and who deny this allegation, citing examples of successful Saudis who have proved their level of dedication and hard work. It is a vicious circle,” he notes.

The solution, explains Al Saeed, is setting up a Saudi Employment Bureau, which registers Saudi job applicants and which binds Saudis to the jobs they were selected for.

الحل في وجهة نظري هو القيام بإنشاء هيئة الموظفين السعوديين وهي هيئة تقوم بإصدار تصاريح عمل للموظف السعودي ليتوظف في القطاع التجاري أو القطاع الحكومي، فعند رغبة الموظف في العمل في شركة أو مؤسسة تجارية فيجب علية أن يقدم خطاب من الجهة التجارية التي يريد التوظف فيها يبين أنها ترغب في توظيف هذا الموظف ومرفق مع هذا الخطاب عقد التوظيف الإلزامي، وعند التصديق على هذا العقد والتأكد أن هذا الموظف لا يوجد عليه حقوق من وظيفته السابقة وأن الجهة التي كان يعمل فيها موافقة على هذا النقل يتم إصدار تصريح بالعمل في جهة التجارية الجديدة ويتم إلغاء تصريح العمل القديم للشركة السابقة.
وعند الشكوى من هروب أو تسيب أو عدم جدية في العمل تقوم الجهة التجارية بإبلاغ هيئة الموظفين السعوديين لكي لا يتم توظيفه في إي مكان أخر قبل أن يقوم بإرجاع كل حقوق الجهة الذي كان موظفاً فيها، بعد التحقق من صدق الجهة التجاري وشكوى الموظف إن وجدت.
“I believe the solution is in establishing a Saudi Employment Bureau, which issues work permits for Saudis interested in working in the private or public sectors. Those applying for jobs should attach the permit with their applications. The permit, which acts as a work contract, also states that the applicant has fulfilled all his obligations in his previous job and that the previous employer has no objection to him changing his job. Only then, can the old work permit be revoked and a new work permit with details of the new job issued. In case the Saudi employee runs away from work, drops out or shows lack of seriousness, then his employer can complain about him at the Bureau so that he is not employed anywhere else afterwards unless he fulfils all his obligations to his previous employer. The Bureau will have to look into the case and determine whether the employer is saying the truth and if the employee has any complaints,” he wrote.

Sounds like we have a plan!

1 comment

  • sulaiman

    I think this is very amateur way of solving things. First of all the conditions you are suggesting to be imposed on saudi employees are not realistic and are not imposed by any other country I know of. Second, the real problem lies in the fact that the saudi labor market is totally disorganised and lacks the necessary laws and policies to protect the saudi employees against discrimination and bias against them in the first place. I can give you multiple examples of companies practicing discrimination and harassment against saudis and allowing non saudis to come and get the best jobs with much higher pay than the nationals. What saudi arabia needs is establishing laws and procedures that regulate the job market and stop the influx of those poorly skilled, low paid workers who are actually non-productive and steal jobs from qualified saudis

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