Saudi Arabia flogs foreign workers for burning bus protest over unpaid wages

Hundreds of foreign workers, who need to send earnings home to their families, waited more than six months for pay

Charlotte England
Wednesday 04 January 2017 11:24
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Buses burn in protest at unpaid wages of workers in Saudi

A group of foreign construction workers who staged a protest about unpaid wages have been sentenced to 300 lashes and four months behind bars in Saudi Arabia.

Video from the protest in April shows a row of buses belonging to their employer, Binladin Group, set ablaze by the angry men, who claimed had not been paid for six months.

Authorities confirmed at the time that seven buses were set alight.

In the courtroom in Mecca, some of the protesters were reportedly sentenced to four months in prison and 300 lashes for destroying public property and inciting unrest during the demonstration. Others were given a lesser sentence of 45 days’ detention.

Workers employed by the Binladin Group and Saudi Oger were left waiting for their wages after a collapse in oil revenues left the kingdom unable to pay the private firms it had contracted to undertake major building projects.

Binladin Group, which has constructed hundreds of landmark buildings in Saudi Arabia on government contracts, was founded more than 80 years ago by the father of deceased Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The company said it had completed payment to 70,000 sacked employees at the end of 2016.

Workers still with the company would get their back pay as the government settled its arrears, the company said.

Tens of thousands of employees of Saudi Oger, which is led by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, were also waiting for wages.

One Oger worker said in December that he had received part of the money but was still owed five months of pay.

The government had earlier said that it would pay its arrears to private firms by the following month, Middle East Eye reported.

But on 22 December, Finance Minister Mohammed Aljadaan, after releasing the 2017 budget, said money owed to the private sector would be paid “within 60 days”.

The majority of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many send the majority of their earnings to families in their home country, who rely on them to get by.

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