The ITUC does not have an affiliate in Saudi Arabia.
Political parties are still banned in this country governed by the Al Saud royal family which does not tolerate any opposition. The Constitution gives King Abdallah absolute power over governmental institutions and affairs of State, and severely restricts political dissent and freedom of expression.
Freedom of association / Right to organise
No information available.
Barriers to the establishment of organisations
- Excessive representativity or minimum number of members required for the establishment of a union
- Saudi workers have the right to set up workers' committees in workplaces in which more than 100 workers are employed.
- Sanctions imposed for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. or joining an organisation not officially recognised
- Anyone who tries to form a union can be dismissed, imprisoned or, in the case of migrant workers, deported.
Restrictions on workers’ right to form and join organisations of their own choosing
- Single trade union system imposed by law and/or a system banning or limiting organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. at a certain level (enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and/or territorial, national)
- Only one workers' committee can be formed in each qualifying enterprise.
Restrictions on trade unions’ right to organise their administration
- Restrictions on the right to freely draw up their constitutions and rules
- The government must approve the statutes and membership of the workers' committees.
- Restrictions on the right to elect representatives and self-administer in full freedom
- The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and management have the right to send a representative to workers' committee meetings. The minutes of workers' committees’ meetings must be submitted to management and then passed on to the Minister.
- Restrictions on the right to freely organise activities and formulate programmes
- Public demonstrations of a political nature are prohibited.
- Administrative authorities’ power to unilaterally dissolve, suspend or de-register trade union organisations
- The Ministry of Labour may dissolve a workers' committee should it violate regulations or threaten public security.
Categories of workers prohibited or limited from forming or joining a union, or from holding a union office
- Non-national or migrant workers
- Foreign workers are not allowed to serve on workers' committees.
Right to collective bargaining
Right to strike
Approximately 8.3 million migrants are legally employed in Saudi Arabia. They make up 90 to 95% of the private sector workforce. Many are victims of various forms of exploitation in conditions akin to slavery. In many cases migrant workers are abused by the recruitment agencies who promise them far more than they can actually earn in Saudi Arabia.
The kafala (sponsorship) system links the worker’s work permit to the employer’s goodwill. A migrant cannot change employer or leave the country without the written consent of their original employer or guarantor. The system lends itself to abuses such as the confiscation of passports by employers, forced labour, non-payment of wages etc. This sponsorship and the slowness of legal proceedings mean that a migrant who is in dispute with his/her employer is at an impasse: he/she cannot continue to work nor can he/she return home. Some run away despite having their passport confiscated and seek refuge at their embassy. The Indonesian media reported that between 19 September and 24 October, the Indonesian consulate in Jeddah issued 4,550 travel documents to workers who had run away from their employer after not being paid or other abuses. The majority were domestic workers and drivers.
Despite the ban on strikes, there were several illegal strikes by migrant workers, usually over unpaid wages.
Wages are fixed by employers, based on the nature of the work and the nationality of the worker. Even in big multinational companies, Saudi and Western employees are paid at least 30% to 50% more than workers from other parts of the world.