Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Shoe is on the Other Foot

We can expect prompt action to this complaint where Saudi workers are complaining of having to work long hours and for payment of overtime. If the workers were from Bangladesh or India, the case would drag on for months years. I have posted time and time and time and time and time again on how workers - the imported workers - are mistreated, be it by unpaid wages, or long hours, or actual physical abuse. The stories are all different and all the same. But, let Saudi workers complain and someone takes notice. Action, too, I'm betting.

There are some differences in this particular complaint, though. The first glaring one being that Arab News has named the company! Companies are almost never named - I know of ONE time, previous to this - and one time only. So, why has the company, Saudia Catering, been named this time?

For starters because 100 Saudi employees "filed a case complaining of discrimination and slave-like work conditions." Hmmm... What about all those other cases? Tell me there wasn't discrimination involved and slave-like work conditions! "In a signed document... employees alleged that the company is violating labor laws and endangering national security by employing overstayers in its operations department - the final line before food and drink are boarded onto aircraft." So what. The company is violating labor laws. Big deal. Companies here violate labor laws. Today is different than any other day, how? It is the way it is, here. And, someone tell me how the overstayers are "endangering national security?" Are you afraid that an overstayer is going to poison the food or coffee? Is that what you mean by "endangering national security?"

Employees are "fed up with the company's illegal activities." And, like I already asked, what about ALL the other companies that engage in somewhat unscrupulous labor activities? We already know the answer to that, though, don't we... The employees "allege problems began two years ago with the appointment of a new unit manager who began shifting Saudis from jobs that met their qualifications to jobs unrelated to their training and education level, such as technicians being moved to manual work." Oh for goodness sakes. Quit 'chur whining. A previous gardener we had, who was trained to be an electrician, was promised a great job in Saudi as an electrician before he left Bangladesh. That great job? He is a gardener.

Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the real problem is. The Saudis are upset because "unqualified foreign workers... have been given supervisory positions." There you go. The gist of the problem, right there. One of the Saudi employees [who has not been "named"] says, "Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi previously stated that the Kingdom is not a recruitment agency for foreigners. All our country's jobs must be for our sons and daughters." No one would disagree that the country's jobs should be done by this country's own "sons and daughters," but if we - all of us ex-pats - leave tomorrow to let you have the jobs, this country will immediately come to a screeching halt.

Another employee [who asked not to be named] said, "We don't want all the jobs as stated by the minister, we just want the jobs that are currently reserved by his office for Saudis." Ahh. So you really don't think that ALL the jobs here should be for this country's "sons and daughters," then. What you do think is that if there is a simple desk job, where you can push around some paper and play with your mobile phone for eight hours while receiving the pay of a CEO, then that job should - rightfully or not - be yours. You don't want some job that requires cooking chickenfishlamb stew - actually preparing the product which your company provides. Why didn't you just say so? Now we can begin to "understand" the problem and work toward a solution. No more Saudis will be in the kitchen. They can all sit at desks. How long do you think Saudia Catering will be able to stay in business - as a company that provides a product - food for airplane passenger consumption - if there are only desk jockeys and no cooks?

"The employees also allege their marriages are strained due to being forced to work long shifts, sometimes up to 16 hours a day, and on their days off." Cry me a river. There are a lot of employees in this country who don't even get to see their families after work! They come for two-year stints before they are allowed to go home!!! Oh, and "days off?" The laborers here are lucky that they get ONE DAY off - they don't get "days off!" According to someone [unnamed, of course], "This has created a problem for us in our homes. Our wives are not convinced that we're being forced to constantly work long hours and on our days off and holidays. Some of the guys have even got divorced." Hmm. The comments I so want to make here are just not appropriate. I am going to refrain...

The article says, "The employees are also calling for Saudia Catering to define the nature of their jobs, and offer them fair working hours, appropriate salaries, housing allowances, payment for overtime and other expenses as required under Saudi labor law." If Saudia Catering has to do this, then shouldn't ALL companies be required to do so??? Apparently it is the law... Never mind. "We don't want any special treatment... If any one slacks in performing his duties then it's the company's right to take action." Yeah. Let me be the first to call BS on that! Oh, and good luck to the company for trying to get rid of someone, a "local," for slacking off in performing his duties. Um-hmm...

Another [unnamed] employee says, "We've backed our case with sufficient evidence. We're not going to get tired and back off or slack, as the company wants us to. On the contrary, we're not going to give them what they want." Well okay, then. There you have it. I am not familiar with all of the airlines that Saudia Catering serves, but am making a note to myself right now to make sure I pack my own lunch before I next get on a plane. If Saudia is not going to have cooks in the kitchens anymore then they are not going to have a product to provide - food on airplanes - and we are all going to be very hungry if we board a long flight... It is as simple as that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter