Monday, November 10, 2008

Badness, Madness and Sadness Worldwide

Is "badness" the right word? Probably not. It will suffice. "Sadness" isn't quite right, either. Madness, however, fits well, I think...

Does anyone remember watching beauty pageants when the contestants would say, "I wish for world peace?" I think Bob Barker was still the host and emcee then. [I am dating myself - it seems like such a long time ago...]

No mention of yesterday's "car slams into the back of a flatbed semi-truck" in the news today.

[Unless you want to read about the differences in how a matter is resolved by the labor court here in the two versions each printed in today's paper, scroll down. Way, way down.]

"A crowd of over 200 workers who have accused their employer of not paying their wages, not issuing their work/residency permits [iqamas] and harsh treatment descended upon the labor court on Saturday to expedite their case." Cheers to these workers for being bold enough to take matters in their own hands! Kudos also to the judges who decided the case in the workers favor, and to Arab News for finally publishing an employing company's name! It is a first. The company, Al-Hasana Contracting Company, has been ordered by a three-member panel of judges, unanimously, to start paying the workers immediately and to renew the workers iqamas. A victory for the workers! Yeah!!!

Today's Saudi Gazette has the story, as well but the events are reported differently. Commentating the Arab News version, first:

The death of one of the worker's added fuel to the fire. Mohammed Muzammil, a 38-year old Indian worker, "lost his life because of a lack of food and medicine." Mr. Muzammil's body remains at a hospital while the embassy tries to settle his dues and repatriate his body back to India.

A company spokesman has, of course, denied any wrongdoing. [Big surprise.] It the company has done nothing wrong then why weren't the workers paid, and why is it that "The company has agreed to pay all arrears, including salaries of the workers, on a weekly basis (every Tuesday) until all dues are cleared." The company has also agreed that iqamas would be issued and renewed for all workers... The company will also consider applications of those employees who wish to go home... Does this mean that the workers may have been held, by the company, against their will? Sure sounds like it to me. The workers gained a final victory when "It was also agreed that the employees could approach the court again if the company violates the terms of the agreement." It would appear that that victory was short-lived. Two workers, Ashrafuddin Mitru and Abdul Nasser, said "there was no change in the company's attitude." They claim that the company management "has now 'dumped' them at a building... in old Riyadh. The building has no water supply. We are still in trouble."

Perhaps the three-member panel of judges will see the light and throw Al-Hasana Contract Company's owner and management in jail until the company can see fit to treat its workers fairly and humanely. That the judges unanimously decided this case in the favor of the workers is a good first step, though. Baby steps...

And, now, commenting on the Saudi Gazette's version:

"Going against the norm, a Labor Court here passed a verdict, Saturday, in record time to the relief of nearly 300 Asian expatriate workers... over salary delay and 'untold sufferings...' The labor court... took just three weeks to deliver the verdict." The difference in the two versions, so far, are the number of workers and that the Arab News version omits that it took the Labor court three weeks to deliver the verdict. Record time! Sure. Okay. [Emphasis, mine.] The Saudi Gazette version delineates and breakdown in numbers the different nationalities involved.

Moving along... "Hundreds of workers across Saudi Arabia are locked in legal disputes over delay or non-payment of salary. Such cases generally drag on for months or years, mainly because of lengthy legal proceedings and employers not showing up for hearings. Under such circumstances, it is not uncommon for the foreign workers involved to give up and return to their home countries..." Oh, my. Three weeks IS record time, isn't it! Why aren't authorities doing anything about the way the cases are allowed to "drag on" when by simply issuing a warrant for the employer to show up - or throwing him in jail if he does not - matters could be resolved in a more fair and certainly more expedient manner?

Saudi Gazette's version says, "On Saturday the labor court ruled that the employer (name of the company withheld) pay accumulated salaries..." Why is the name of the company withheld? A bit of embarrassment and humiliation might just go a long way, if you ask me. The company, AL-HASANA CONTRACTING COMPANY [Arab News did report it!] delayed salaries of its 300 workers for between 5 to 10 months and did not provide the mandatory health coverage! I have no idea who AL-HASANA CONTRACTING COMPANY's principals are, but they should be utterly ashamed for NOT paying their workers for between 5 to 10 months. [If I was one of the three judges who heard this case all of the company's principals would be in jail - for at least 5 to 10 months! Oh, and they'd be heavily fined, too.]

R. Murleedharan, president of the Federation of Kerala Associates in Saudi Arabia [FOKASA], a social organization which helps Indian workers in distress, says: "This court verdict in record time not only alleviates the sufferings of the workers but also serves as an example to those who shy away from seeking justice in Saudi labor courts." We can only hope so, Mr. Murleedharan. Apparently, some Saudi businessmen have expressed concern over the lengthy procedures and the delays in rulings on cases because it "could discourage foreign workers from coming to work in the Kingdom." Gee. Ya' think?

Quoting directly from the Saudi Gazette:

Despite the court verdict, the workers are not quite jumping for joy. Nearly all of them do not carry a valid Iqama, which is mandatory for foreign workers, and without which they risk jail and deportation if picked up by the police or the Passports and Immigration authorities. [Damn, but if the United States couldn't learn some things from the way eliminating illegals is done in the Sandbox!]

Muhammad Zahoor, an air-conditioning technician, said that following the court verdict, when they went to the work site on Sunday, all those whose Iqamas had expired, were denied entry. "The major task now ahead is to get the verdict implemented," Zahoor said, adding that 75 percent of the workers would want rather [to] collect their end-of-service dues and go home - "largely because of their bitter experience with the company."

No one can blame them, that's for sure.

Baby steps are needed here, as well. And someone tell me just why it is that Saudi workers cannot be trained and employed as laborers?!? "Cheap labor" [bingo!] will always be required.

Is this case being reported in the Canadian papers?

Another 12-year old child has been married.

The headline for this is "Mobile maniac arrested." In yesterday's paper another "mobile maniac" [although he was not described that way] was arrested.

Every year during Haj, pictures of the event wherein thousands and thousands of sheep are slaughtered are printed in our two newpapers. Provided our printer is working - or if it is not working - we get it replaced - I will scan them and post them. You will never, ever be able to convince me that the halal way is in any way, shape or form humane. Not that any other way of slaughtering and killing animals for meat is any better, but I think this is just utterly and reprehensibly barbaric!

A Saudi man has been beheaded.

Police have arrested a murder; he is currently being investigated. He will confess in due time.

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