Swedish-Saudi companies “violate workers’ rights”

Many Swedish companies operating in Saudi Arabia violate workers' rights in line with repressive local laws, instead of standing up for their employees, a non-governmental group said Monday.

Large companies such as truckmaker Volvo, Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB, and packaging firm Tetra Pak have soaked up the benefits of Saudi Arabia’s booming economy, but also sometimes adhere to local rules that violate the rights of their workers, according to SwedWatch, an umbrella group that comprises a number of human rights, fair trade and environmental organizations.

“ABB and Tetra Pak pay Saudi workers more than migrant workers even when they perform the same tasks (and) at (Swedish door-maker) Cardo Door’s joint venture, Saudi Crawford Doors Factory, a Saudi can earn more than three times more than his foreign colleague,” the group stated in its 61-page report.

While Saudi laws call for migrant workers to as far as possible be replaced by nationals, SwedWatch insisted that Swedish companies have an obligation to “adequately compensate migrant workers who have to quit their jobs due to the Saudization process.”

Especially shocking, according to the group, is that “all Swedish-Saudi companies keep the migrant workers’ passports”, pointing out that the practice is prohibited by the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

“No employee should have to hand over his identity paper to the employer,” SwedWatch said.

In addition, five out of six Swedish-Saudi companies do not employ women at all, according to the group, an issue that is especially shocking in Sweden, a pioneer of gender equality.