Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/401/4566
Defend Saudi workers
SWANSEA TRADE Union Council is supporting the 'Campaign for Democratic Trade Union Rights in Saudi Arabia'.
Alec Thraves, Socialist Party Wales, Swansea Trades Council delegate
After hearing an appeal by Yahya Al-Faifi, delegates voted unanimously to support the campaign, which is attempting to overturn the Saudi law which makes it unlawful to form or be a member of a trade union.
There are no collective bargaining rights, no minimum wage and it is illegal for workers to take industrial action.
Yahya has had to seek refuge in the UK because the Saudi government says he is guilty of the 'crime' of trying to organise his fellow workers at British Aerospace in Dahran in June 2002.
Yahya was sacked because he dared to organise a meeting to discuss a response to a new contract for the 2,000 Saudi workers, which would have meant a pay cut.
After 18 months of appeals to the labour law courts, with the judge openly agreeing that 14 articles of law had been violated, Yahya lost his case on the direct orders of the Minister of Defence!
The whole Saudi legal system is totally biased towards big business. Workers from countries such as Australia and the UK have fully protected contracts, pay and conditions but Saudi workers have no protection. They have little chance of justice in the labour courts.
After suffering from state persecution, with 24-hour surveillance from government agents, Yahya feared the Saudi government's brutal approach towards worker activists, which could have resulted in a 15 year prison sentence.
A group of Saudi academics were jailed for between 6-9 years for merely petitioning the government for civil and trade union rights! With growing threats to the safety of his family Yahya was forced to flee.
Successive British governments have had a long-standing business relationship with Saudi Arabia, much of it involved in the arms industry. This includes, for the past 40 years, British Aerospace, the company which sacked Yahya.
Their workforce in Britain would be furious to learn that their Saudi counterparts are denied basic trade union rights and hence, fundamental human rights.
Throughout this summer, Swansea Trades Council will be circulating affiliated unions to gain support for the 'Campaign for Democratic Trade Union Rights in Saudi Arabia'.
After Yahya spoke at a Swansea Socialist Party branch meeting, our members will also take the struggle of Saudi workers to trade unionists and socialists throughout Britain and internationally.
In The Socialist 14 July 2005: