(MENAFN - Arab News) Contractors have requested the Labor Ministry to supply them with sufficient Saudi workers to replace foreign workers and fulfill the ministry's demand to increase the number of Saudis to more than 50 percent in their companies.
The request is a reaction to the ministry's recent order that for each expatriate worker in a company with less than 50 percent Saudi employees the company will have to pay a levy of SR 2,400 annually.
"Bring us Saudi hands to work in the contracting sector," they told the ministry in a press meeting at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) with the participation of 20 contractors representing construction sectors such as roads, buildings, water projects and electrical installations.
They said if Saudi workers were not found, they preferred to halt their contract works and face fines for delayed projects rather than pay the huge fees.
They blamed the ministry for taking decisions without making detailed studies about ground realities, such as the inability to get Saudi workers in construction and cleaning sectors, among others, and the harm the decision would do to the country's development projects.
"We don't want to enter into a dispute on orders issued with the aim of protecting national interests, and it is our duty to implement them. But how can we achieve that goal of increasing the level of national workers to 50 percent if they are not available on the job market? If the ministry has any solution, we would be grateful to learn about it," Fahd Al-Hammadi, chairman of the contractors committee in the RCCI, said. He said the contractors have no other option but to stop their contract works and face penal action until a pragmatic solution is found, the Madinah daily reported Tuesday.
Deputy Chairman of the committee Muhannad Azawi said his committee sent three official letters to the minister's office two years ago, pointing out the harm the move would do to the sector if the fees on foreign workers were increased. The ministry did not respond to the letters, which the committee interpreted as the ministry's intention to implement the order without discussing the problem with any contracting companies, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said the new fees on expatriate workers would not make any significant impact on the cost of food, making it unlikely it would increase food prices.
"When any essential commodity price goes up, the ministry studies if the raise in price is justifiable and proportionate to the actual increase in the cost of production. If the new price is not justifiable, the traders would be forced to bring down the price to the old level," a source at the ministry said. According to him, the government ordered the ministry to appoint 500 more market inspectors to keep a constant watch on markets prices.