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The Sorry Plights of OFWs in Saudi Arabia – Part 3


Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

Part 3 of the series of articles about the harrowing experiences of Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia deals with the right to be furnished a copy of the employment contract and the unlawful reassignment.

On one particular Friday (that was last week), I went with a bunch of friends to Al Ramaniya Mall – the famous hangout of Filipinos – in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia and had, as usual, the chance to prattle (as in, to talk about our harrowing experiences at work in so insouciant a manner as to at least find a temporary relief of our boredom) with my fellow Filipinos.  To my surprise, what was supposed to be a mere yap on this day turned into a serious discussion of our experiences that must have warranted a random, if not regular, check by the Philippine Embassy into some companies employing Filipinos.

Unexpectedly, the following became the meat of our discussion.

  •  Right to be furnished a copy of the employment contract

According to John (not his real name), his company did not give him a copy of his employment contract upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia, claiming that he could ask for it only in due time (i.e., when he needs it for a certain purpose) and that he could do so through the system they call ERP or Baan (which is equivalent to the Human Resources Information System that is usually used by the Philippine companies) subject to the approval of the HR Manager.

I told him the approval of the HR Manager is [supposedly] not required because it is a legally settled fact that both parties to a contract, whether related to employment or whatsoever, must each have a copy thereof, and it is applicable not only in Saudi Arabia but in all other countries as well. 

In Saudi Arabia, I told him further that it is specifically set forth under Article 77 of its Labor and Workmen Law that “labor contract must be in writing, drawn up in Arabic and in duplicate to be retained by each of the two parties.”  It is, however, the practice that the labor contract is written in both English and Arabic.

Taking a further look into Article 77, it is stated that one’s employment may not necessarily be under a written contract but he can demand at a later time for a written contract.  What is perplexing to note, however, is that the onus of proof lies with the employee, as can be read in the same article, which says, “However, even though it is not written, a contract shall be considered existent, so that the workman alone may by all means of proof establish his rights.” 

  •  Doing a job different from what is stipulated in the labor contract

Jokingly, I told him it should not matter, because what is important is, you are paid a monthly salary, as agreed.

But what startled me is, he was supposedly hired as a secretary but is actually assigned as a storekeeper.  When asked why he did not complain, he told me with a snap of desperation: “Wala na koy mahimo, bayNaa man ko diriAko nalang antoson (I cannot do something about my case, my friend.  I am already here [in Saudi Arabia].  So I must bear with it).”

I am pretty sure his case is not unprecedented.  In our company, there is this one Indian hired as a secretary but deployed as a production helper.  But unlike him, the latter is a graduate of a bachelor’s degree who does not possess the required linguistic proficiency and computer skills, to the director’s chagrin.

They would not have experienced this if only their company had strictly followed the law: “A workman shall perform the work required of him pursuant to labor contract.”

  •  Working more than the required number of hours a day

Not only was John reassigned as a storekeeper; he has been working for a maximum of 12 hours a day for more than a year.  Disappointingly, he claimed he has not since been paid an overtime pay for his overtime work that run up to, more or less, four hours a day.   Granting that he joined his company on September 1, 2010 (meaning, his length of service is one year and six months, or 18 months) with a salary of SAR 1500 a month and that he is rendering four hours overtime work, he should have earned on top of his basic earning, thus:

                  OT Hours Worked:
                 18 months x 26 = 468 days (26 days per month)
                  468 days x 4 = 1872 hours (OT work is 4 hours a day)  
                  OT Pay Per Hour:
                  SAR 1,500 / 30 / 8 = SAR 6.25 (Regular hourly rate)
                  6.25 + (6.25 * 0.5) = SAR 9.375 (OT Pay Rate per hour)
                  OT Pay:
                  1872 x 9.375 = SAR17,550
                 (equivalent to P198,315, computed based on P11.30 per SAR)

With P198,315, John could have bought a parcel of land with an area of 132.21 square meters for P1500 per square meter or could have built a decent house (if he doesn’t have one).


About Danilo Tao-tuan Naraja

I am an expatriate based in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and work in the Admin and HR Division of an oil and gas company. I am an HR practitioner for more than a decade. I used to work for a Cebu-based local newspaper. I love to write human interest stories and started writing when I was still in high school.


22 thoughts on “The Sorry Plights of OFWs in Saudi Arabia – Part 3

  1. Thanks for helping us understand this practice. I had been led to understand that the Saudis imported a good deal of their labor and don’t extend their “freedoms” much to the workers. I’m told that movement is restricted and they are not allowed to shop in some areas? Is this correct? I’m also advised that one cannot be a citizen of the country without being a Saudi by birth? Is this also correct?


    Posted by Sherry | March 21, 2012, 9:34 pm
  2. I’m also very impressed by the depth and thoughtfulness of your posts, on a subject I really know very little about, and ought to know more. Thank you for sharing.


    Posted by Eau de Nil | March 21, 2012, 9:01 pm
  3. Thanks for following my transitional space blog. There is such a lot on yours to read, so much about areas of the world I do not know, I can see I have a lot to learn. Thanks also for all this work you are doing to help us become better informed and take what part we can in the fight(s) for fairness. Elspeth


    Posted by elspethc | March 18, 2012, 4:46 pm
  4. Excellent write up, and its really nice to you covering the darker side of Saudi Arabia. I have done my schooling in Al Khobar from Saudi Arabian Int’l School Pakistani section and lived in Dammam for 10 good years so I have a bit of idea how things work in Kingdom but definitely your blog will help me learn more about the working conditions in Kingdom.
    Keep up the good work friend : )


    Posted by Tanzeel | March 18, 2012, 10:56 am
    • Thank you, Tanzeel. 10 years is long enough to learn about Saudi Arabia if you just had turned your eyes on what has actually been happening here. But, anyway, I surmise you were just so focused on your schooling. However, I will also be writing wonderful stories about Saudi Arabia.


      Posted by Danilo Tao-tuan Naraja | March 27, 2013, 9:21 pm
  5. It is one of the saddest part of being an ofw. Everybody deserves a fair compensation and benefits. Hope we’ll see a bright future ahead!


    Posted by loidabestdiscovery | March 17, 2012, 12:37 pm
  6. its the same plight that nepali workers face there


    Posted by itssrijana | March 17, 2012, 3:39 am
  7. I enjoyed reading your article; I will be back for more.


    Posted by pattylt69 | March 15, 2012, 3:20 pm
  8. Thank you for following my blog, Pull of the Sun. Your OFW article is truly interesting and informative, an inspiration. Keep in touch.


    Posted by kshawnedgar | March 14, 2012, 7:06 pm
  9. This is really sad. If only we have opportunities here, our kababayans need not have to sacrifice too much and get so less.


    Posted by jumbledcoffeethoughts | March 14, 2012, 3:14 am
  10. Excellent series. I found it interesting that most of what you wrote about is considered illegal. I will try to be brief. In America a employer can walk up and simply say “your services are no longer needed” and you are escorted off the property by security and your personal effects are in a box waiting for you. Without an explanation. In fact they are encouraged not to give an explanation for fear of legal action. Probation after transfer is quite common and things like severance pay? That’s just for executives. I guess what I am saying is that most of the working class in America take workplace issues that you have brought up so much for grated as the normal reality for all workers. It is interesting to see the contrast on this issue from a different cultural perspective.


    Posted by White Male Oppressor | March 13, 2012, 9:48 pm
    • I agree with this comment. Very interesting topic. The sad reality here is, I guess it doesn’t matter where, when, who or why….people are used, and certainly not truly viewed with much value, particularly when it comes to labor and compensation. We are just a bunch of worker ants, and we keep on moving,moving,moving because, number 1, it is our nature. Number 2, if we don’t the colony doesn’t eat. Sooner or later we stare up at the mighty soul of the giants shoe and ultimately we will be stepped on. It just seems this is the way of life, living, and working, time and time again. This is not limited to large companies, I have seen small do the same to it’s loyal workers (they may be nicer about it) $$$$$ will forever dictate and sadly, hold power over all else. There will always be a battle waged against what’s right, and what’s fair.


      Posted by 5kidsmom | March 17, 2012, 1:14 pm
      • I absolutely agree to your comment. But I opine that the most difficult battle to fight is taking place right within ourselves, whether we are Saudi natives or what have you, and that is how to apply what we know is right and fair. The natives with whom I have been working are fully aware of the fact that there are illegal practices of some companies here. But they have kept mum about it, as they have gotten used to all these.


        Posted by Danilo Tao-tuan Naraja | March 27, 2013, 9:34 pm


  1. Pingback: The Sorry Plights of OFWS in Saudi Arabia – Part 4 « Of Life and The Living - March 30, 2012

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