Exclusive labor courts to expedite settlement of disputes

A great leap in Saudi justice system, says legal expert


Saudi Gazette

— The slow pace and lengthy proceedings in the redressal of labor disputes will come to an end in Saudi Arabia soon as the authorities are finalizing the establishment of full-fledged labor courts, which are scheduled to start hearings in September.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has been giving final touches to the new system. As many as 58 judges appointed to preside over the labor courts are currently undergoing training in Riyadh, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Justice.

In the first phase, seven courts will be established in Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah, Buraidah, Abha, Riyadh and Dammam.

Apart from this, 27 circuit courts will be established in various provinces and governorates to deal with labor cases.

Also, six appellate courts will review judgments issued by the lower courts, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The locations of the courts were decided by the Ministry of Justice based on statistics provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development regarding the number of labor disputes in each area in the past several years.

Currently the Primary Commissions for the Settlement of Labor Disputes, which work under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, address the grievances of employees. These commissions lack actual judicial powers, according to legal experts. On the other hand, the labor courts will be part of the judiciary.

Article 34 of the law of procedures for the Shariah Courts states that grievances such as disputes relating to employment contracts, wages, rights, injuries, compensation and social insurance claims, among others, will be dealt with by the labor courts.

The move is expected to end the woes of employees in general and expatriates in particular as it will expedite the delivery of justice in accordance with relevant regulations and effective judicial processes. It will also put an end to protracted court proceedings in resolving labor disputes.

Explaining the jurisdiction of the new courts, Abdullah Al-Salafi, a noted lawyer, told Saudi Gazette that the new system was a great leap in the Saudi judicial system and would ensure the speedy delivery of justice.

In a significant reform, the labor court judges will be specialists in labor regulations, he said, adding that this in turn would lead to greater accuracy in dispute resolution.

"The new labor courts will boost the positive image of the country and develop sustainable employee and employer relations," Al-Salafi commented.

“Plaintiffs can directly or through an attorney can file cases in the labor courts. The Justice Ministry is planning to provide free legal aid to plaintiffs who cannot afford a lawyer within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030. The government will reimburse the fees to the lawyers," Al-Salafi explained.

Plans to establish exclusive labor courts were part of King Abdullah Project for Judicial Reform and Development initiated in 2007. Since then, the opening of these courts has been postponed for one or other reason.