Apr 01 2012
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Ministry completes study on replacing sponsorship system
The study, which took five years to complete, included the rules and regulations for the new recruitment companies. "The study will be presented to the Council of Ministers shortly for approval," an informed source told Arab News.
The study proposed the formation of a commission under the Labor Ministry to look into foreign labor issues and put end to the traditional sponsorship system. The commission will be based in Riyadh and will have branches in major cities.
According to the new system, an employer would not be responsible for the wrong actions of a foreign worker outside his work. "The new system is designed to protect the rights of both foreign workers and employers," the source said.
The insurance scheme will also protect employers from possible risks such as robbery, embezzlement, damages, leakage of important business information and damages caused by the worker to others.
The recruitment companies will take necessary measures for recruitment of workers required by individuals and for their journey back to their countries if they wanted so. It will also facilitate transfer of workers from one company to another, the source pointed out.
"The details of the new system would be discussed with various government departments before finalizing it," the source said. "No date has been fixed yet to implement the new system," he added.
Some analysts said the new system would bring only partial solution to the problem as it addresses only a group of foreign workers such as drivers, maids, private nurses and other house servants.
Khaled Aburashid, a legal expert, said the new system would benefit foreign workers. The new recruitment firms will be shareholding companies and their boards of directors will include a member from the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) to make sure they protect the rights of workers in accordance with the Labor Law.
However, NSHR officials feared that the new system would bring only structural changes. The sponsorship system was introduced in the Kingdom about 60 years ago in 1371H and the world has changed a lot during this period, including labor rules.
Dr. Hussein Al-Sharief, president of NSHR, urged the government to take into consideration an 80-page study prepared by his organization on the cancelation of the sponsorship system correcting the relationship between the worker and employer. "Our study has taken into consideration the rights of both workers and employers," he pointed out.
Some aspects of the present sponsorship system go against the Shariah and contradict international agreements related to human rights, Al-Sharief said, citing matters such as holding passports of foreign workers by the employer and the difficulty in transfer of sponsorship from one employer to another.
The Council of Ministers issued a decision No. 166 in 1421H calling for organizing the relationship between the foreign worker and employer within the framework of a work contract. It emphasized the need to replace sponsorship and sponsor with work contract and employer in the residency and labor laws. Although the Cabinet adopted the decision eight years ago many government departments still have not yet implemented it. This delay has affected the Kingdom's international reputation and triggered a lot of complaints from foreign workers.
There are about eight million foreign workers from 120 countries in the Kingdom.
Sharief Awad Al-Hobailey, CEO of Jeddah Center for Law and Arbitration, said wrong implementation of the existing sponsorship system was the reason for many problems. "If the sponsor and the foreign worker had abide by its rules the picture would have been different and much better," he added.
Ahmed Al-Yahya, a former ministry undersecretary and an expert in labor issues, said the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized the sponsorship system in Gulf countries with regard to workers' rights. "We should study legal, security and social aspects before taking a decision to cancel the sponsorship system," he said.
© Arab News 2012
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