Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Yay, Everyone Can Keep Their Passports.

New Labour Law putting employers, aka sponsors, in their place indicate that, though it might be slower than some people want, Saudi is changing.  Breaking news this week - employers are not to keep workers passports anymore.

Not that employers were legally allowed to keep their employees passports anyway, but they did it out of habit and because there was no law stating, quite obviously, that they weren't supposed to.   Now Saudi sponsors are going to have to change their ways or risk getting fined if they continue in their wicked ways.  If I was a worker bee, I'd head off today and get back what's rightfully mine!

A couple of years back I wrote about the issue of employers keeping worker passports in the post, That Passport Is Mine, Thanks.  In it I explained how the passport issue was linked to Saudi sponsorship.  It's nice to know at least a part of that post is obsolete.

It's funny that this new law was announced this week because just last week I was having a chat with our new compound manager (we'll call her the CM), answering a few questions she had about how the place operated.  Not only is she new to compound management, she is also fairly new to Saudi (she's been here about four months).  While chatting, one of our security guys came in to the office.  He walked over and handed his passport to our CM.  She looked at him quite blankly and said, 'What is this?'
He said, 'I back my vacation.  This for you'.
They looked at each other for moment, both almost as still as statues, she not comprehending what he was saying, while he was most likely wondering if there was a problem.  She turned and looked questioningly at me.

I said, 'It is common practice for employers to keep employee passports, though it isn't a legal practice.  You can ring Head Office and find out what to do or you can decide here and now what is best'.
She turned to the security guy and said, 'Keep it.  It's yours.  I don't need it'.
He looked rather surprised.  He hesitated a moment.  She waved him away and he walked off pocketing his passport.  (I'll have to check later if she gave him back his iqama).
'Do they really do that?' she asked.
'Yep', I said.
'Oh my god.  I don't believe it', she exclaimed in utter disbelief.
Like I said, she's new here.

Here's a write up by Saudi Gazette on the new law - SR2000 fine for keeping workers passports.
My initial reaction to the news was a double take - I had to read it again just to be sure I'd read it right!  Then I was like, 'Wow, OMG, Yes, fist pump, high five, Whoop Whoop, Party Party'.  (Ok, so I may have been in the sun too long).  As I said, Saudi is changing.  Here's hoping if any Saudi sponsors don't heed the new law, the Saudi judiciary will do exactly as the new law claims.

Ka Kite,

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