5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Saudi Arabia

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.

In practice

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Exploitation of migrant workers31-12-2011

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.

No collective bargaining30-11-2009

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.

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