Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Plight of Workers...

Here is a most excellent example of a worker being taken advantage of with absolutely no recourse whatsoever. Tariq Al-Maeena has a big pair of "brass ones." On a fairly regular basis Mr. Al-Maeena publishes articles that shed light on issues in this country that need to be addressed. [It is too bad that Mr. Al-Maeena is not in charge of overseeing this country's traffic laws! I do believe he has what it takes, i.e., big brass ones, to make AND enforce changes.] I digress...

Today, Mr. Al-Maeena writes of the plight of Ahmed, a Bangladeshi who is currently working at a delicatessen whom he has conversed with and "learned a few things about the labor practices followed by some very ruthless Saudis." The short version of Ahmed's story is that he was working at a hotel when a Saudi businessman offered him a position at a much higher salary. The Saudi businessman had 100 labor visas [it all goes back to money - see, I told you] and convinced Ahmed to go through the proverbial hoop-jumping required, here, to leave his hotel employer and work for him.

Ahmed, who has a family to support, accepted the Saudi businessman's offer and went to work for him. For the first two days Ahmed worked in the office of his Saudi employer, but was then told he was needed to "work around the house" [red flags! red flags! red flags!] where he would be paid the same amount he was originally promised.

For the next six months Ahmed worked as a domestic helper for the Saudi, driving him and his family, cleaning the house, gardening and acting as a guard; he was not given a single dime - or halala - of his salary. [More red flags!] Ahmed's father passed away and his family was "in dire financial straits" so he asked his Saudi employer for his wages. His employer told him "that he would [pay him] as soon as he returned from Switzerland where he would be vacationing with his family" for two weeks. The employer and his family were gone for SIX weeks and not the two weeks he had said they would be gone, for. Ahmed was fed and provided with accommodation but received no money. Did the Saudi employer pay him upon his return from Switzerland? Of course not. Why? He couldn't. He "had spent a lot of money during his trip. Europe is very expensive, you know." When Ahmed complained his employer told him that if he was "unhappy and wanted to transfer to another sponsor" he would have to "pay him ten thousand riyals!" [$2,680.96] The employer threatened that if Ahmed couldn't come up with the money that he would turn Ahmed's passport over to the Passport Department for deportation.

Ahmed's plight worsens, because he "ran away" from his Saudi employer - leaving his passport behind - and is now working illegally at the delicatessen anticipating every day with fear that he will caught; he has learned that the Saudi man did in fact turn over his passport.

Mr. Al-Maeena asked Ahmed why he has not gone to the authorities, or Labor Court and Ahmed said, "I am just a poor Bangladeshi and he is a well-connected Saudi. The authorities would immediately arrest me and put me on the next available flight home." Ahmed is, of course, correct, that is exactly what would happen. Will he ever be able to collect his due wages from the Saudi man who managed to "openly flaunt labor laws and exploit" Ahmed "and get away with it?" What do you think? [The answer is no.]

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