RYAD – Thousands of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, most of them Asian, are in financial dire straits as large Saudi corporations are in arrears with their salaries, a crisis due to the freeze on many construction projects after the oil prices collapse.
One example would be the “Saudi Ogeh” company, whose employees have resorted in the past weeks to protest in front of the company’s HQ in Jeddah and provoked fires in their sleeping barracks and staff shuttle buses.
A Filipino worker, who identified himself as “Edward,” told EFE that “Saudi Ogeh” hadn’t paid them any wages for nine months and they had filed complaints both at the Saudi Ministry of Work and the Philippines’ embassy in Ryad.
“The embassy is trying to help us, but we ask our government and president to intervene as some of us have children and we need to pay their schooling and our debts back home,” he added with anxiety.
Due to the financial crisis “Saudi Ogeh” is immersed in, they cannot even process the documents required by workers enabling them to seek another job or return to their home countries, as they need the “authorization” of their employer to leave Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Ministry of Work has tried to intermediate between the company and its workers, by offering them money, renewing their work visas or granting a travel visa to leave Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Ogeh,” as many others, has been hit by the freeze or suspension of Public Works contracts due to the Saudi’s financial crisis after the international market’s oil price collapse, which has affected the public finances of this oil producing country.
The Indian government had to distribute food among 5,000 starving Indian workers across Saudi Arabia, after “Saudi Ogeh” halted their food supplies on June 25.
Also, the Indian Foreign Affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, announced their intention to repatriate 10,000 Indians in all.
According to the Filipino daily, Manila Bulletin, the government announced last June the creation of a “Black list” of Saudi companies, “Saudi Ogeh” included, warning their citizens to avoid working for them.
Some 7,100 Filipino workers are employed by “Saudi Ogeh” alone and it is estimated that nearly one million Filipinos and three million Indians work in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi Ministry of Work source, quoted by the local daily Al Watan, said they had filed 31,000 complaints against “Saudi Ogeh,” owned by the sons of deceased Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic al Hariri, in partnership with members of the Saudi Royal family.
The large-scale Public Works construction company was founded by Al Hariri in 1978 and in 2010 posted an $8 billion profit.
After the collapse of oil prices in August 2014, Saudi Arabia has cut its state budget and last year the oil rich monarchy announced a record financial deficit.