Global trade union files UN labor complaint against Saudi Arabia alleging migrant worker abuse News
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Global trade union files UN labor complaint against Saudi Arabia alleging migrant worker abuse

The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) union filed complaints against Saudi Arabia with the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) claiming that at least 21,000 migrant workers in Saudi Arabia suffered from severe human rights abuses and wage theft for over 10 years mainly by two now-liquidated Saudi companies.

According to BWI’s Wednesday complaints, Saudi Arabia’s migrant workforce faced exploitative living and working conditions akin to forced labor. These include the withholding of wages, retention of identity documents, excessive overtime and intimidation and threats. BWI also stated that the migrant workers’ rights violations were compounded by the prohibition of worker industrial actions in Saudi Arabia.

BWI urged the ILO to thoroughly investigate the violations and suggest that Saudi Arabia ensure its laws and practices comply with international standards. According to BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson:

Saudi Arabia, where trade unions are banned, blatantly disregards international labor standards and fails to compensate migrant workers who have suffered abuses for over a decade … it is imperative for [] Saudi Arabia to resolve the outstanding wages of over 20’000 [sic] workers for whom we have provided evidence, and to establish mechanisms that prevent any further abuse

Migrant workers constitute about 75 and 41 percent of Saudi Arabia’s workforce and population, respectively. BWI’s complaints address violations of the ILO’s Forced Labor Convention and the Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. Saudi Arabia is a member of the ILO. Rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are also in support of protecting migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

This is not the first time a human rights organization has warned about human rights in Saudi Arabia. On April 29, a global coalition of human rights organizations sounded the alarm over the fates of young men facing imminent execution in Saudi Arabia for crimes allegedly committed when they were minors. The advocacy groups argued that Saudi Arabia’s decision to move forward with the executions of several young men for crimes committed when they were minors flies in the face of the nation’s international standards. The groups also slammed Saudi authorities for human rights violations experienced by young detainees, including “enforced disappearance, solitary confinement for months,” and “various forms of torture.”