« BIG Win for Employees at Supreme Court | Main

July 08, 2006

Free Trade with Rapists and Labor Abusers

Read this story from the Saudi Press:

Cases of Asian maids running away and leaving their employers in desperate situations seem to be a growing phenomenon. We tend to hear many cases of maids being abused by their employers but at the same time there are multiple cases of families themselves being abused and treated inappropriately by their maids.
Read that again. Trying to escape a bad employment situation is considered "abuse" by the Saudi elite.

Which is par for the course in a region where women workers, usually hired from overseas, routinely face rape and abuse at the hands of employers. See this Human Rights Watch report on Dubai:

Migrants, including large numbers of women employed as domestic servants, face intimidation and violence, including sexual assault, at the hands of employers, supervisors, sponsors and police and security forces. Children are especially vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation and denial of basic rights.
Employers in Saudi Arabia also engage in routine abuse of employees, largely migrants from overseas. See this Human Rights Watch report:
The estimated 8.8 million largely South and Southeast Asian and Arab foreign workers in Saudi Arabia comprise a third of the country’s population, according to Minister of Labor Ghazi al-Gosaibi...Nongovernmental organizations in several Asian countries and those countries’ diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia documented hundreds of abuses of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, such as unpaid wages, long working hours, and physical and sexual abuse. The isolation of women domestic workers in private homes, and the lack of legal protection, puts them at risk of serious abuse.
And yet this is the region where the US is pushing lots of "free trade" deals, the approval of the trade deal with Oman in June the most recent one, all part of a plan to build a "Middle East Free Trade Area" agreement.

We may be dependent on the region for oil, but why would we think of making trade agreements with regimes that are some of the worst violators of labor rights in the world?

Posted by Nathan at July 8, 2006 11:39 AM