Work at the King Fahad Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran in Medina has ground to a halt as 900 out of 1,400 workers and employees go on strike for the seventh day in protest of low wages.
Daily production at the King Fahad Complex, established in 1982, has witnessed a remarkable reduction in the past week with daily copies dropping from 52,000 to 2,000 and as the complex’s operating company Saudi Oger Limited has so far failed to reach a middle ground with the workers, more losses are expected to rise.
“We failed to reach a compromise with Saudi Oger because the 10% raise they offered was not enough,” Fares al-Awfi, an employee at the complex, told AlArabiya.net. “That is why the strike will go on.”
Awfi said he has been an employee for 17 years and has been barely getting any benefits in addition to his basic salary, which does not exceed 3,090 riyals despite the fact that he is a holder of a computer certificate and will get his B.Sc. degree in a year.
“According to the official system of monitoring production and executive regulations, employees should get their basic salaries in addition to an annual raise and transportation and nature of work allowances. We are not getting any of this.”
The employees on strike met with representatives of Saudi Oger and called for an adjustment of their salaries, which range between 1,500 and 4,000 riyals per month. However, the company only offered a 10% raise.
“It is not fair to make the raise percentage the same for all employees. Now I, who has been working for 17 years, will be equated to another employee who was hired a month ago.”
A middle ground
Dr. Nazih Kalo, manager of Saudi Oger, which is in charge of the operation and maintenance of the complex, admitted that the company is facing problems with the employees and workers and that production dropped during the past week, even though he did not want to admit that there was a work stoppage.
“It is not work stoppage in the proper sense of the word,” he told AlArabiya.net. “It is rather a drop in production rates.”
Kalo expressed his hope that the problem will be solved within the next couple of days and stressed that the company will do its best to reach a compromise with the workers and resume production within two days.
However, Kalo denied that wages are “extremely low” like workers and employees are saying.
“Wages are not low and they have in fact undergone a substantial development in the past few years.”
In an attempt to contain the crisis and urge workers to resume production, Saudi Oger approved a 10% raise for all workers provided that it is not less than 500 riyals per month for Saudis and 250 riyals for non-Saudis.
Saudi Oger also approved a salary adjustment for 350 employees after the administration approved their promotion in addition to a 3-5% raise based on the performance evaluation of each employee.
The strike started with 300 workers and employees then the number kept rising till it reached 900. In the beginning, Saudi Oger threatened to penalize workers on strike and deduct from their salaries if they do not resume work, yet the strike went on.
The administration of Saudi Oger also asked workers who are not on strike to work extra hours in order to make up for production drops, but they refused.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)