Saudi Arabia: Telecom workers take strike action

First drop of a coming rain storm

In a rare move in Saudi Arabia, more than 1,000 employees of the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) went on strike last Sunday, demanding bonus payment. Some of the strikers are also calling for the company chief to step down.

The strike has led to the halt of services provided by customer care help desks.

On Facebook, the employees launched a campaign under the slogan: "Together Against Al Duwaish", referring to Saud Al Duwaish, the company’s chief, whom the employees accuse of mismanagement. They are upset after annual bonus was given only to senior grade staff and not to all workers.

The employees were angry after the company took a decision granting annual bonus to senior grade staff and not to the low-salaried workers. Workers have been talking about a contract with an Indian company within which STC wants to transfer large number of employees to the contracting company, depriving them of some incentives they have been getting.

It was reported that STC management tried to persuade employees to return to work but failed. Later the company chief sent a message to the employees promising that this year’s bonus will be paid and urged them to double their efforts to realise excellent results in 2011.

The STC announced earlier that its revenues in 2010 have touched 14.7 billion Saudi riyals ($4 billion).

The company was established in 1998, following a decision adopted by the Saudi cabinet to privatise the Kingdom’s telecom sector.

This strike shows that potential for a workers’ movement exist in Saudi Arabia and even a small protest movement will encourage the workers in different sectors of the economy to come out against the slave conditions and low wages. This strike is the first drop of a rain storm that is waiting to unleash in this oil rich country.

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March 2011