A Hariri Company’s Holiday Layoffs

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But what will happen when members of these families return to Saida, unemployed, despite the long years they spent serving the company? (Photo: AFP - Joseph Eid)

By: Amal Khalil

Published Saturday, October 5, 2013

The management at the Saudi Oger company could not wait to give employees their Eid al-Adha gift. In early October, 25 employees at the Holy Quran Press operated by the Hariri family in Medina, Saudi Arabia were informed of their dismissal after more than 25 years of service.

Most of these employees come from some of the biggest families in the city of Saida, families that tend to vote for the Hariri’s Future Movement, such as the Naqibs, Bahlawans, al-Aazis, al-Sayyads, Arkadans, Shaabans, al-Bailanis, Hijazis and al-Aqqads. To add insult to injury, they were laid off without receiving end of service compensation. But what will happen when members of these families return to Saida, unemployed, despite the long years they spent serving the company?

In a phone call with one of the fired employees who has not yet returned to Lebanon requested leave to spend their Eid holiday with their families in Lebanon. The director and a lawyer in Jeddah - both of whom also happen to be from Saida - demanded that the employees sign a statement stipulating that they received their accrued liabilities and end of service compensation, in the event that the company has to lay them off one day.

“They signed the paper after being promised that the company would indeed pay them all their accrued liabilities. It did not occur to them that there was a plan to fire them all along. Just like that, and without a prior notice, they were informed of their dismissal,” said the former employee.

It is not the first time that Saudi Oger does something like this. Over the past few decades, the company has fired tens of employees, including many from Saida. Some of those joined the Salafist cleric Ahmad al-Assir’s movement just to spite the Future Movement, and MP Bahia Hariri in particular, because they were arbitrarily dismissed. But where will those newly dismissed go now that Assir has disappeared? This development highlighted once again the chaotic situation at the company.

The dismissed employees have been working at the Quran Press of the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran in Medina since 1993. That is, since the company won the tender to operate the press due to the king’s intervention, despite a more competitive offer by the Bin Laden company.

At the time, 350 Lebanese employees worked at the press, most of them from Saida, Beirut and Iqlim al-Kharoub. Their numbers later dwindled to a hundred due to Oger’s financial crisis. These employees work in administrative and technical positions at the printing press, which prints and distributes copies of the holy book all over the world and produces audio recordings of Quran recitation.

One of the fired employees pondered “the relative nature of the financial crisis that was said to be the reason behind their dismissal.” He pointed out that the salaries of all those dismissed “does not exceed 6,000 Saudi Riyals while the director’s salary is 60,000 Riyals.”

The dismissal prompted chatter about the responsibility of the deputy director and company’s former account manager, who left the office four years ago and returned to Lebanon to manage another company owned by the Hariri family. Many of the dismissed employees contend that he is partially responsible for the alleged crisis. It is rumored that he covered up massive embezzlement schemes that took place during his tenure. Incidentally, his name was mentioned as a major beneficiary from the sale of company shares in the Turkish telecommunications network to the Saudi Telecom company (STC).

In the past two months, the company has added 300 names of its employees to the dismissal roster. Some of them have already been informed of the decision, while others now anticipate the same fate.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.


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